A different kind of Christmas

Posted Dec 13 2019, 2:35 am in , , , , ,

With less than two weeks until Christmas 2019, the few presents I’ve bought are still in a drawer, unwrapped.

My holiday cards remain in their packaging and apart from a vintage Santa candle and musical angel, my cherished Christmas decorations are still tucked away in boxes.

I’ve seen plenty of holiday decorations and heard non-stop holiday music—just not at home.

I’ve also been out and about, although not to carol concerts, seasonal craft fairs or other festive holiday events.

I haven’t been to shopping centres, either, something I enjoy at this time of year to admire the decorations, see Santa and the elves in their grotto and, for an instant, reconnect with the childhood wonder that once shaped this season for me.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ChristmasCookieBook.jpgAlthough I’ve dug out my mom’s recipes for holiday treats, my pantry is still bare of homemade cookies and other seasonal delicacies.

Instead, and since late October, my attention has been focused on English Rose and trying to get her the help she needs to manage a new (and as yet undiagnosed) set of medical challenges.

Almost four years ago when my previously healthy child became chronically ill, I had no idea of the path that awaited us and how the journey would change her life and mine.

I didn’t know then that I’d have to become a patient advocate and medical researcher, applying skills I honed in the academic and corporate worlds to a cause that is much more personal and closer to home.

I didn’t know then that I’d soon be managing the biggest and most significant project of my life, mustering all my energy not to grow market share or demonstrate return on investment, but to better my child’s quality of life.

And perhaps most of all, I didn’t know then how many things I took for granted, especially the day-to-day routine of family life that was busy and often tedious but reassuringly ordinary.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ChristmasLlamaCHEO2019-624x1024.jpgThis year, I’ve been surrounded by holiday music and festive decorations in hospitals and medical clinics where staff do their best to bring seasonal cheer to young patients and their families.

I’ve done a bit of holiday shopping in a hospital gift shop in a break between a flurry of medical tests where doctors and nurses poke and prod my brave teen and talk about “ruling things out” and “getting her stable.”

And we as a family have been plunged into the (we hope temporary) world of home-based education as these new medical issues have made English Rose’s existing conditions much worse and mean she’s currently not well enough to attend school.

In this context, it’s difficult to feel excited about Christmas and New Year and I confess I flinched when someone in our local grocery store wished me a cheery “Happy Holidays” this week.

Yet, these current challenges are also helping me focus on the real meaning of the season—a time of joy, peace, healing and renewed strength.

Presents, sparkly lights, holiday decorations, special food and gatherings with family and friends are good things and ones I hope to enjoy another year.

But what is most important now is that English Rose, Tech Guy, Floppy Ears and I are together in our little family, nurturing what that unit means to us.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is AngelMusicalChristmas-645x1024.jpgAs I look at that musical angel, a present from my paternal grandparents for my first Christmas, and the vintage Santa candle that was a seasonal feature in my childhood home as far back as I remember, I’m reminded of where I come from and the family roots that also shape each festive season.

This year, Christmas will be different but that doesn’t make it less meaningful. And I’m finding a different joy in reminding myself to be grateful for what I still have.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ButterTartSeptember2019-1008x1024.jpg And baked treats? I’m buying some at the bakery that helped inspired my fictional Quinn’s Bakery in The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls.

After all, and if you’ve read my new book, butter tarts are always in season!

I’m taking a break from blogging over Christmas and New Year but will be back with a new post on January 10, 2020.

And for those of you celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I send my very best wishes and hope you find personal meaning and fulfilment in your seasonal celebrations. 






22 responses to “A different kind of Christmas”

  1. Lydia says:

    Enjoy your blogging break! You and your family are in my thoughts this holiday season.

    My husband has a chronic illness, too. <3

  2. Lynn Folliott says:

    My thoughts are with you and yours, Jen. Wishing you so much…xo

  3. Debbie Smith says:

    You and I chatted about a Christmas song all the while I had no idea the challenges you and your family are going through. My prayers to you and your daughter for healing, peace and love. God Bless.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      I’m remember chatting with you, Debbie in Linda’s Book Obsession community. I appreciate you reading my blog and commenting here. Thank you for your kind thoughts, words and prayers.

  4. Linda Zagon says:

    Jen, Wishing you and your family a Happy and Healthy Holiday. Sending thoughts, prayers, and love,
    Love, Linda Xo

  5. Jennifer Wilck says:

    Thinking of you and your family and wishing you love and peace at this, and every, time of year.

  6. Sherie Lundmark says:

    Prayers for your family and all those professionals working to give you answers. May you find times of peace, rejuvenation and love this holiday season.

  7. Carole Leduc says:

    Sending hugs and love and prayers for your family. Last Christmas my husband was battling cancer and the nasty effects he had from radiation treatment. This year will be better as we moved closer to one of our sons.
    May only good things come your way.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you very much, Carole. We all appreciate your kind words. I’m sorry to hear that your husband has had difficult medical challenges too but am glad this year will be better for you both. Thinking of you and sending warm wishes for ‘good things’ too.

  8. Carol Luciano says:

    You and your family are in my prayers Jen.I too spent a year in a similar way when my daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer at seven and a half. Being an in patient for a year was overwhelming by itself and the holidays were appoaching. There were six more children at home but then we decided Christmas was about love and it didn’t matter where we were. For us, the Dr’s came in Christmas eve morning to say she was in remission and we could go home ,finally. That was 24 years ago and she’s still healthy. You will get through this and as I said I’m adding you & your family to our prayers. What popped out at me is you saying English Rose, that was my daughter’s screen name for a couple of years. ?

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you so much, Carol. It touches me that you took the time to not only read my post but also share your story. You indeed understand what this path is like. I’m so glad your daughter is still healthy and getting the news of her remission on Christmas Eve morning must have been the best Christmas present ever. I call my daughter ‘English Rose’ on social media because she was born in England and lived there until she was twelve–she’s now sixteen.

  9. jennifer l beck says:

    My prayers , thought are with you and your family. lot’s of wishes and prayers coming your way. Love Jen

  10. Tracy Brody says:

    Prayers for English Rose, you and Tech Guy. Seeing your child in pain and suffering and not being able to take it away is one of the hardest things to go through. Sorry that this is still going on and not improving. Hugs and prayers.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you so much, Tracy. It is indeed one of the hardest things to go through and I appreciate your hugs, prayers and caring. This new situation is something ‘in addition’ to the previous one (which is also still going on).

  11. Donna Hattaway says:

    Keeping your family in my thoughts and
    prayers!! Get well soon English Rose!??⚘⚘

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