New Years are bittersweet. They come at a time of holiday, celebration, reunions with loved ones who are alive and well and memories of those who are not.
When I was a kid and we would have family dinners - I mean real family dinners with cousins and 2nd cousins and my Grandfather's sister's husband's sister I thought it was the greatest thing. There were games, good food, cousins to run around and get into trouble with,gifts, pinches to cheeks(okay that wasn't so great nor were the soaking wet kisses from old people who smelled like eucalyptus and tobacco)and everyone seemed happy just to be with everyone. No one was off in a corner texting, bbming, surfing the web. It was all about being up close and personal and intimate with each other.
As I grew older I would look around the table at Rosh Hoshannah Dinner or Passover Seder and my heart would sink at the sight of each empty chair that was not empty the year before. As the years went on my Grandparents on both sides passed away as did many other younger relatives who were unexpectedly and tragically taken too soon. And when I would look into the eyes of my uncle who lost his wife and my cousins who lost their mother, I would see vacancy and then I would see ghosts.
Do you ever close your eyes when it's really quiet and you are by yourself and you try to bring forth a vision of a face belonging to someone you loved more than life itself? Do you see them right there and then? Does it bring back moments that seem to have frozen in time? Do you feel them feeling you thinking about them? I do. I close my eyes and I see those I have lost along the way and I find comfort in knowing that I can see them whenever I need to and that I will not forget their faces. I will make damn sure I never forget them.
The expression "Life Goes On" is one of the more sensible, realistic and truly factual ones that we hear again and again when someone is faced with the loss of a job, a girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, finances and inevitably the death of the person who was closest to them.
I see my Grandmother (photo in this post) joking with me as she laid in a hospital bed having just been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Her face and figure still full before the dreaded wicked disease would transform her into a desperate shadow of herself. She wanted me to get married and stop "fooling around". She yelled out to a very handsome orderly "Hey - Javier - you know I love you - you take such good care of me - do me a favour - marry my Grand daughter." That didn't work but it was a good try (and btw Javier was delicious).
Within a month of seeing her daily, she eventually lost the ability to speak and see. It wasn't long until she fell into a coma. The morphine continued to drip and then it dripped some more and she was gone before I was able to make it back to the hospital to say "Goodbye".
I don't know about you but every year on New Year's Eve when the countdown begins I flashback in a black and white slide show of all that has occurred in my life in the year that is about to expire. I see some beautiful and amazing things and I feel some deep heartbreak and sadness. I wonder will the next year be any better or will it be worse knowing it can go either way - it's a crap shoot really.
What I hope for is to keep all the people I love safe and sound and for their lives to go on and on and only grow in happiness and blessings. That's always my New Years wish. I make that wish, I don't bother with resolutions because they are about things that we want to change and my wish is about things I don't want to change and the latter is far more important.
All the same, I know that another year will come and go and there will be another Rosh Hashannah and another Passover with everyone around the table smiling, laughing, eating and secretly wishing there would never be another empty chair.
So when you have a chance, close your eyes and remember the way they looked when they were happy, the way they laughed when they thought something was really funny, the way their eyes loved you when they looked at you and they way they made you feel you were the most important person in the world.
It hurts, it heals, it flows like a river on a sweet Sunday afternoon. It's life and yes, it does go on.
Happy Holidays to all of my readers near and far (shout out to Romania, Slovakia, Japan, China, Israel, Australia and others who honour my words and feed their curiosity by visiting my Blog)and to my kin at Montreal Memories.