by Sr. Sheila Devane MMM Ireland 14.01.2024
Today is January 8th as I am writing this, and my Christmas decorations are coming down in slow instalments! I will keep the 77 Christmas cards for the entire year and take them out in twos and threes to read over and remember the precious people who thought of me over this beautiful season – people I also remembered, prayed for and am so deeply grateful to have in my life.
This year instead of hanging up the cards on strings I kept them on the kitchen table and sat at mealtimes with five or six cards at a time. I was able to appreciate the pictures, read the contents and most of all remember who had sent me each card and then quite often recall times in life when we met, did things together or shared a similar challenge! I will do this again.
I received cards from friends in many places with some of them handmade, others sponsoring a particular charity, many showing the Holy family, others more secular with Santa, reindeers, photos of places of note and each one worthy of my time, thoughts, and gratitude.
Let me tell you about three of these cards, the people and their stories!
The first of these to arrive came from a family of neighbours and was a painting done at school by their middle child Karl; I got several cards drawn by schoolchildren – one a child as young as 5 years old. Karl is fifteen and has Down’s Syndrome; his card was really well painted and showed a house like his own with the baby Jesus in a very comfortable looking bed in a room with a big fire and a heavily decorated Christmas tree. He refused to draw a stable or crib arguing that Jesus God should live in a house like his – even better as this one had more windows! Isn’t Karl so right? I am proud of him.
I got my sister’s card hand delivered when I met her. For the first time ever, the writing on it was not hers. I looked at it twice – even thrice – and realised that this year she had been unable to write the card. My wonderful older sister has Parkinson’s disease and is struggling to keep up the beautiful family traditions, gifting and great care of others that have been hallmarks of her life. I am so proud of her – if saddened too.
Donna’s card came by post of December 29th. I was surprised and anxious when I opened it. I thought of her many times over Christmas and indeed over the past year and asked myself on numerous occasions should I send her a card? I decided not to. At a carol service in December, I heard the story of the soldiers from opposing sides in the first World War crossing the line to sing together on Christmas eve and realised this happened because one soldier bravely risked his life to take the first step. I had contemplated the first step of reconciliation with Donna but as her card last year announced her severing of our (short) friendship, I decided to respect her wishes of “no further communication.” I only know her about four or five years. At a function we both attended, just after lockdown, a “hot topic” came up for discussion – one on which she holds a strong position and which she was happy to give her views on to all the guests there. My error, or ‘slight’ to her, was that I changed the conversation at my end of the room and began talking of something else to the woman sitting beside me. This led fairly quickly to a second conversation on the floor. Donna said she felt affronted and insulted. Her life experience left her knowing extremely well what life in an orphanage and with nuns who were unkind could feel like. My action (and I am a nun too) reminded her of this in some ways and invalidated her cruel life experience; she was really hurt. She cut me off her acquaintance list. Her Christmas card shows a dove with an olive branch in its mouth, and she added her own words to the lovely messages in English and Irish inside. I sent a New Year’s card. Maybe we will meet again this year. I am proud of her action and relieved.
I am grateful for the inspiration of these three courageous people and value their particular messages for me.
This card is one of my favourites – I received it on January 6th. It shows the Three Kings setting out from a Muslim city with the Star of David overhead – sad yet hopeful at this tough time of war in the land in which Jesus was born.
A blessed New Year to all the blog readers!