It happened every year. At some point in the holiday season Rodger would be in the hospital. Aspiration pneumonia three years in row between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A heart attack on Thanksgiving Day one year. Worsening Dysphagia on top of fluid buildup in his lungs due to congestive heart failure the following year. One time a broken partial plate sliced a gash in his tongue requiring a trip to the nearest Urgent Care where he sat with a bloody paper towel hanging out of his mouth for over an hour waiting for treatment while others in the waiting room tried hard not to stare. I can only wonder what they must have been thinking. A week later he developed a fever and had to be admitted with an infection of unknown origin.
The stress of the holidays got to him. We were doing all the work to get everything done while his routine went on unchanged. Why then did it take such a toll on him?
Holidays are a time to gather and share a feast with our family and friends. When we are children we watch our mothers and grandmothers prepare the meal, inhale the delicious aromas of various pies baking in the oven and look forward to chasing our siblings and cousins through the house while the adults sit at the table long after dinner and talk about boring stuff.
When we become the parents we follow in their footsteps taking satisfaction in passing on our traditions. Then the losses begin, becoming more devastating as the years pass. Our grandparents first, then our parents. We still celebrate but the occasions are tinged with melancholy as we look back with joy and a few tears remembering the ones no longer with us. We share stories of the past. We laugh and cry and hold the new generation of infants and children a bit longer than they like because they are our hope and we know one day we will be their memories.
The stress of the holidays got to him every year and it may do the same for your loved ones. If it does it could be because they are reliving the losses more than the joys in their life. Depressions sets in and with it their immunity becomes compromised. Unfortunately, I don’t have any miracle solutions to offer. What may ease them in the moment for one of us may backfire for another and we all receive more advice from others than we can possibly follow anyway.
What I can say is, “I understand and I am here for you when things begin to become more than you can handle on any given day. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the good memories when they come.”
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