New Year

Common belief holds that what you do at the new year sets the pattern for the year ahead.  This is why people throw parties to welcome the new year, why they try to spend New Year's Eve with the ones they love, and why some are determined to make that midnight kiss happen.  There are superstitions about wearing new clothes, starting off debt-free, and generally declaring your intent to be a better you starting January 1.  New Year's Day is a time of omens for the coming year.  Everyone hopes that good luck on the first day will presage good luck through the year.

And we really needed that hope in 2017.

It's pretty well accepted that 2016 sucked.  Whether you were saddened by the many deaths of beloved celebrities, shocked by various disasters and humanitarian crises, or disgusted by political developments, chances are you've had a rough time lately.

I was a little overwhelmed by the politics, myself, which is part of the reason I fell off posting to this blog for a while.  While I haven't always posted cheerful things, I do usually like to post pieces that are at least hopeful.  Politics don't often find a place here.  In fact, I generally hate politics and would rather talk about almost anything else.  I resent having to spend so much time thinking about it over the last year and a half.  The ugliness that our American Presidential election brought out in society was deeply disappointing.  I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to keep that tone of my despair and anger out of things.

So, needless to say, I was determined to set a precedent for better fortune in the new year.  I tried to fill the holiday season with good cheer.  I spent the time reminding myself of positive aspects of my personal life- people I love, simple comforts that aren't always available to the less fortunate.  Gratitude was key.  There was cleaning and thoughts of fresh starts in the days leading up to January 1.  I even indulged in some superstitions.  In the tradition of first-footing, I made sure my dark haired husband was the first one over the threshold after midnight and fed him rye bread and whiskey.  We were all set for a happy and prosperous 2017.

Then, the morning came, and we got the call that my father in law had passed away moments before.  By seven am, we were on our way into a morning filled with tears, family comforting each other, and all the practical tangles of trying to inform everyone, arranging for the funeral home to collect the body, and starting the process of sorting out what comes next.

The death was not entirely unexpected.  His health had been failing for a few years, and he had gradually become more and more immobile.  He hated it.  After a lifetime of being active, working, social, creative, he was imprisoned by his body.  In some ways, the end of his suffering and frustration was a relief, but a man like that leaves an impression on every life he touches, and nobody was really ready to let him go.

For us, the pattern of our new year was being woven with sorrow.  We spent our first week of 2017 helping to plan a memorial service.  Family travelled home from far flung places, brought together by tragedy.  There were decisions to be made, logistical and financial concerns.  There were late nights sharing company and grief.

At the end was the service itself, a day of hugs and tears.  Photographs were assembled to demonstrate the richness of his life.  Speeches captured the depth of the loss, but also the impact the man had on his world.  We celebrated the many contributions of a person who could sometimes be cantankerous and difficult, but who genuinely loved others.  His perseverance and hard work were honoured, his humour and rough charm remembered.  The room was filled with family and friends, all come to comfort each other, to support each other through hardship, and to celebrate the good in this one specific human being.  When you think about it that way, living this pattern for the year isn't such a bad thing.

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