If you currently or once regularly attended religious services, or you’re a care partner for someone who does or did, there is no more important time to get to your church synagogue mosque meeting house than the December holidays. Studies show that having a regular religious practice, participating in services, helps stave off the depression, increased debilitation & even sudden death that can haunt the holidays.
One thing that helped keep the Lockphy Murphart Christmas celebrations merry & bright was sharing as a trio – and reaching out to other family in the area – what we wanted to do over the holidays. Whether you are living in your long-time home, have recamped to smaller digs, are in an independent living or a continuous care community, take the time to go over with your children your holiday plans hopes wishes. There is nothing worse than a parent expecting to be with children over the holidays only to find out their house is packed with guests from away ~or~ they’ll be off visiting family/friends. Unless it is the kids planning a big holiday whoop-dee-do featuring their parents, grandparents, only to find they’re going to be celebrating in Hawaii.
If you are a care partner, either a family member or an assistant, plan a special time to discuss the holiday with the older person. Instead of asking, “What do you want to do for…?”, come prepared with suggestions, options. They can open the door to what the older would like to do & might not think of on their own. Become an investigator, ferreting out what they would like to do. And don’t put your keen interest or utter ho hum (or even humbug) about the season affect your listening – pay attention to what they say, rather than what you’d expect. My mother’s expectations of the season were very different from Mom Murphy. As was their ability to get around. Mom depended on our wheels – or maybe Peter’s, if he was in touch that year – to shop, while Mom M’ lived in the city & could get herself to a variety of shopping areas. Mom was the very embodiment of Christmas Past, Mom M’ – not so much. But she had her Murphy traditions that were important to do – putting out the cozy village (now in The Retreat) atop the piano, checking with John on what to get her daughter-in-law (me!).
Mega warning – it is easy for children to have unspoken, usually unrecognized but very strong expectations of how parents or grands are meant to be over holidays. The holidays worked for the two of us because we put our focus on our mothers – what they wanted, were able to do. Mom at 89 could no more baked & decorated batch after batch of Christmas cookies than flapped her arms & flown around the kitchen, but she sure loved picking them out at Lochel’s Bakery! We scaled down traditions to what worked for her & gave us all pleasure.
With our dear friend, Anne, we’d talk about the holiday around Thanksgiving. One thing I learned was not to remind her that this or that child would be away over Christmas. Unnecessary stress. The last few years were made special in our eyes, since John & I had the fun of going over the plans as if for the first time at every meal or outing with Anne! By talking to her children, we knew what each family was planning for the holiday, so could avoid unintentionally setting up expectations for something that wasn’t going to happen. Instead of telling her, “Anne, we talked about this the other day,” we jumped right back into whatever was being discussed as if it was the first time. And we kept our ears peeled for what gave her special joy & did more of it. By last Christmas – which turned out to be our last Christmas with her – we had her likes & loves down to a science!
Here’s a smattering of what I’ve learned over the years from our parents & friends about setting up for a happy holiday:
- Make a special time to review with older loved ones or clients their hopes for the holiday season. Open the discussion by asking if they have any thoughts on the holidays. Be ready with suggestions & options as prompts.
- Where needed, discuss scaling down past traditions to make new ones that are simpler but still pack a holiday punch. Make them part of the process.
- In discussing plans, take into account their physical condition. You’re going to have a problem if you plan family holiday party in a place with a long flight of steps. (Actually happened to my mother!) If you’re layering events- like church followed by dinner – build in some down time for them to take a breather or get a rest.
- Don’t set yourself up for the depression over the holidays – too many care partners stress out over providing an idyllic holiday experience. Cut yourself a break!
- Don’t try to replicate the past – be in the present.
- KISS – keep it simple, sweetie – and everyone will have a happy holidays!
First, Ron Culberson’s Do It Well. Make If Fun. was the capstone of my decades-long quest to gain a sense of self, of alignment & equilibrium. Then, Mel Robbins 5-Second Rule kicked off my current quest, to DO what calls to be done. Followed by Jim Stovall & Ray Hull’s The Art of Learning, which put structure around that intention, provided the mechanics needed to make things so. And now, it’s Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s What Will People Say About You When You Are Gone? that’s addressing directly the myriad of questions that sprang from reading the others!
This chain of reading is too effective, too targeted to be mere coincidence. Reminds me of what my very UNreligiousy (but deeply spiritual) John said about the two of us – “I didn’t plan this & you didn’t plan this BUT Someone planned it!” In a similar vein, SOMEONE put together this reading list!
Yes, it is a matter of attention that our finances are on particularly low ebb. And we appreciate that friends & pleasant acquaintances fret over our prospects. To them, we seem unreasonable in our belief that we are on a path of purpose laid out by Powers beyond our trifling understanding.
Writing in a Facebook posting, doing my weebly best to explain, I noted – “hearing a friend tsk tsk that better some income in a field outside my interest than no money at all, am realizing two things: 1) at 65, with a stellar but ancient resume & no updated computer skills (and a gammy leg that rules out wawa or walmart), i’m overqualified, under-credentialed & aged out for even temp positions; 2) i agree with red stevens in “the ultimate gift” – losing everything can be a great starting place. we value the work we do, even if others don’t. preventive care is rarely given the value of corrective or maintenance. the work we’re doing makes a difference. valuing it means honoring the path that’s been set before us.”
Wrote that this past Saturday. Then last night, my jaw dropped reading Rabbi Cohen sum up my verbose point in one sentence: Australian palliative nurse Bonnie Ware notes that the most common regret at the end of one’s life is wishing that “I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Amen & hallelujah!
A few pages further, three more gems spoke to my heart & laid out my reason for living:
- Marc Angel, in his book Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life, writes: “We human beings are placed on earth to attain transcendent treasures – wisdom, love, spiritual insight, moral courage. If we can keep our lives focused on these goals and if we can direct our lives according to these ideals – then we ‘win’ at life. But if we come to ascribe greater value to mundane attainments – wealth, power, fame – then we may find ourselves having accumulated things that are ultimately of little worth. Winning at life means keeping focused on what is truly important and not getting sidetracked by external glitz. Winning is not a one-time event, but an ongoing way of life.
- Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true; I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light I have.”
- How can you harness the gift of life for maximal impact and fulfillment? You can begin by leading your life as a reflection of your innermost values. The only way to accomplish this goal is not to wait for external stimuli to jolt you into action but to cultivate an ongoing mechanism to keep your ideal self front and center.
Again – amen & hallelujah!
Every position I’ve held – – from teaching at a small parochial school to working for US HealthCare ~ Prudential HealthCare ~ BISYS Financial Services to teaching at-risk high school students with guns in their car glove compartments & shivs concealed in the shoes – – was preparation for our NOW. That doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. They don’t get it. We do. We know that John didn’t plan this & I didn’t plan this BUT Someone planned it. No more to say.
The Almighty invests all of us with the spirit & strength each day to harness this inner power. The question is whether we cherish the gift of free choice to express our deepest values or live on cruise control and make decisions out of convenience and not conviction.
I’m reminded of the story in Ah, but Your Land Is Beautiful by South African writer, Alan Paton. He tells of a man who died and came before God. “Where are your wounds?’ asks God. “I have none,” said the man. “Why,” responds God, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?” – – – DEEV – to me, giving a fair shake to all ages, in all stages is worth the good fight!
At every moment of our lives, whether young or old, we’re called to be our own very best. We’re charged with living life with passion and purpose. The world is watching. If we choose courageously and optimize our opportunities, we’ll know that we gave of our gifts, touched the world, and lived our lives in a way that we’ll be remembered in blessed memory.
In quoting his friend, Senator Joseph Lieberman – “When I decide a course of action, it is not for fear of failure. If I lose because I stood for my beliefs, I will always be at peace. I never want to be remembered for playing life safe. I want to be remembered for doing what was right.”
The longest distance in life is between our heads and our hearts. Spiritual success requires developing the training to transform our intentions into reality. We all experience flashes of inspiration when we awake from our spiritual slumber. In those moments, we embrace a seriousness of purpose & pledge to truly devote ourselves to our deepest values. Yet all to often, our motivation is short-lived. Soon enough, we’re back to old habits.
There is no shortage of people who aspire to growth & greatness. Life is filled with unfulfilled dreams & unrealized potential. As Henry David Thoreau reflected, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” You’re reading this book because… you want to ALIGN (my CAPS) your body and soul and lead life with urgency and a higher purpose. You have a song within you to sing.
All the good intentions in the world won’t translate into action if we don’t pause to reflect on our life direction and purpose. If we don’t, it could turn out that all of our investments of time, money, love, and talents were for naught.
These gifts are only collectible by friends, family, pleasant acquaintances & total strangers living in the Greater Philadelphia/Bucks & Montgomery Counties area. They are three WOW! houses, decked out in mega style for the season.
GIFT #9 – Check out Manor Road, Hatboro, between Warminster & Montgomery Avenues. Best approach is from Montgomery. Small but mighty!
GIFT #10 – Springdale Avenue, Hatboro, a 5-minute drive from gift #9! Coming out either Montgomery or Manor, turn left on Warminster Road, a 2nd left where Warminster ends at County Line, a 3rd left onto Springdale, 3 streets down. Gob-smacker!
GIFT #11 – Grenoble Road, Warminster. However you get back to County Line, turn left onto County Line, then take a right at the next traffic signal, onto Jacksonville. Continue on Jacksonville, crossing Street Road & Bristol Road, turning left where it Ts at Almshouse Road. Turn left & then take almost an immediate right onto Old Jacksonville Road – do NOT pay attention to the “Road Closed” signs. Continue on Old Jacksonville to where it crosses Grenoble. Turn left onto Grenoble (DO pay attention to the “Road Closed” signs on the other side of Grenoble- bridge is out). There is an amazing house on the right that actually welcomes cars to slowly drive down & around the driveway. While not as gaudy as the houses on Manor or Springdale, the opportunity to have such a close up view makes it my #1 choice of local decorated houses. FYI – in front of the house, there is a place to give contributions to Ronald McDonald House.
Tip #1 for having a truly happy holiday is about as basic as they come – – get enough sleep. Yes, YOU or whoever is the primary care partner! It’s easy to log in fast-paced days & late nights. Pace yourself. Build in pauses.
Tip #2 – Make sure older loved ones, friends, clients aren’t tuckering themselves out. The ideal holiday party for an elder who’s frail or dealing with memory challenges is low-key, has a small guest list (10 is a reasonable max), with a quiet room complete with comfy chair or bed to grab a little rest. Even fabulously fit older friends & family might appreciate the opportunity to take a breather.
Tip #3 – If you MUST layer activities – church service or play, followed by dinner – keep a watchful but unobtrusive eye on the elder. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sit, that they have a bit of quiet time if they seem to be tiring.
With a little forethought & attention, judicious pacing can help older friends & family extend their time enjoying loved ones & the holidays.
Oh, to have my mother’s copy of BECKY’S CHRISTMAS! But I parted with it several years after Mom died, along with BECKY’S BIRTHDAY and my original artwork by Tasha Tudor, selling them on Ebay. I bid adieu because of fear something could happen to me & they’d either not end up with people who truly cared about them, who understood their deep worth, or be thrown out.
Tasha wrote & lovingly illustrated Becky’s Birthday first, in 1960 – a recounting of an actual birthday celebration for one of Tasha’s children. Becky’s Christmas was written the next year, with the same magic.
Over the late 1960s & through the 1970s, the three Lockhart Ladies became pleasant acquaintances of Tasha’s, through her dear friend & trusted art dealer, Ned Hills, who featured her books & artwork at his magical shop & cozy restaurant, the Dutch Inn in Mill Hall, PA. We’d travel the several hours from Bryn Athyn to the Dutch Inn at least once, sometimes twice a year – we always went when Professor Hills (professor emeritus across the river from Mill Hall, at Lock Haven University) hosted a book signing with Tasha. In the 1980s, a friend & I went to BLOOMINGDALE’s – in Manhattan! – for a Tasha Tudor signing!
Christmas & Tasha Tudor – both fill my heart with joy!
Like many Christian congregations, my birth church offers the Stephen Ministry , a program that provides one-on-one support from a congregant for people having difficulties in life.
That presents ME with a challenge! I’ve had older friends who requested visits from the Stephen Ministry but were put off when the assigned contact wanted to delve into their problems when their problem was not having anyone to just talk to, to share info on what was happening in the broader community to which they no longer had ready access.
The guantlet thrown down by the Stephen Ministry? To develop Anne’s Ministry, similar in that it’s a volunteer-based, peer-to-peer program BUT one focused on JOY. That shares who’s getting married, just became grandparents, what’s happening in our three schools – elementary/high school/college. Volunteers who could go over the Bryn Athyn POST for news of the week, who’d get to know their older friend’s interests, what sort of news they’re interested in hearing, what seems to trigger happiness. Not to help solve problems or alleviate depression, but, through social connection of the joyful kind, to PREVENT them.
A worthy challenge – ACCEPTED!