When I was a junior primary school kid I had one of the worst and best Christmas experiences of my life.
I have a wonderful country based family, coming from the beautiful picturesque finders rangers north of Adelaide. My grand parents were farmers so my younger years I have wonderful memories of my pop working hard on the farm and my Nan, always in the kitchen. She was an amazing cook that always had plenty of our favourites on hand when we would come to stay. My grandparents had moved off the farm and into the town of Quorn and toward the end of the year my mum and I went to stay with them as Nan had not been well. I got to experience a country primary school for the last term of the year and had a wonderful time with my cousin who is only 6 months older than me and I just loved to be with.
Christmas eve arrived and all of mums family had gathered for a big family Christmas at Nan and Pops town address. I remember the women in the kitchen getting the food prepared and ready for the next day. The Xmas tree was overflowing with gifts for everyone. And there was such a feeling of family and belonging. It was hot and the boys were all out under the veranda enjoying the sunset. Then in a split second everything changed. My Nan dropped dead from a massive heart attack in the kitchen.
One minute she was laughing and having fun and the next minute there was an ambulance and paramedics in the house still trying to bring her back, working on her and getting her into the ambulance. But she had left this planet before she had even hit the floor.
As the youngest member of the family at this time I was sheltered by the adults of much of what happened. But even 40 yrs later I can still remember that night like it was yesterday. It is one of the earliest memories that I have.
Every Christmas time I think of my Nan. I remember what a wonderful warm loving woman she was. How much she loved family and feeding us all. I also remember how the family tried desperately the next day to have a good Christmas day for us kids, and also I believe because they knew just how much Nan loved big family events. Yes, it was a time of such sadness, Nan was a big presence in our lives and the cornerstone of the family. And it was a very tragic time.
Now I could look back on this time and hate Christmas because I lost my Nan. But I don’t. I celebrate her spirit. I remember how much the family rallied together that year to try to make it great for us kids. I remember how important it is to spend time with your family at Christmas.
I learned at that very young age that family was there to support each other, to encourage each other, to cry on each others shoulders. To grieve but also celebrate the lives of those that came before us. To pass on the traditions of bringing together the family. And to this day I have no idea what I got for Christmas that year. And it doesn’t matter. The gift was that everyone was there together.
Not everyone has a wonderful family like I do. I am grateful every day for the beautiful supportive crew that I am part of, but family doesn’t have to be blood. Make sure you make time this festive season to connect with the important people in your life and to remember those that made you who you are today.