Views from the Valley

That Christmas Morning Feeling

Friends sometimes ask me if the holidays are difficult for our family since the loss of our son Ben almost three years ago and my mother earlier this year. That’s an understandable question as losing loved ones often stirs up emotions during certain times of the year. It can be very distressing for some folks being surrounded by the sights, smells and feelings of the holidays without the people they love by their side to share it.

For me, however, it’s not the holidays that are hard but the “in between” times when grief can take hold – the silence after a busy day, waking from a troubling dream, or glancing at a photograph and remembering. When this happens, I give it a moment, honor it then move on. We, as a family, are now doing really well just by spending time together coupled with the passage of time and the continued support of friends.

The season from Halloween through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day is the time of year I actually look forward to. It’s a delightful time with bright colors, lively festivities and comfort food. Oh boy! I love to pull it all together – the shopping, wrapping, decorating, Christmas cards, cooking, eating – all of it. Each year, we get a little better at it and enjoy our time together a little bit more. On Christmas morning, we wake up and feel the glow of Christmases past and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. That feeling of comfort and joy can sometimes last well into the New Year and I hold it close in my heart. Ben and Mom loved the holidays and I think they would approve of our having fun in their absence. We have since found special ways to include them in our celebrations.

No matter your beliefs, the year-end holidays and beginning of the new year can be a time of both reflection and renewal. Every year, I think about the many blessings I have been given in this life and express gratitude in waking up healthy each day. I take the time to reach out to those near and far as the relationships that I have forged over the years are so special to me. I would never want to take them for granted. I support organizations that have the same goals that I do, especially the ones dedicated to preserving our history, protecting neighborhoods and helping people who are struggling. I stop to appreciate beauty and just breathe.

One morning this week, I woke and sat with my coffee cup on the couch for a couple of hours, just looking out the window. I watched the clouds clear from the rainstorm and the sun cast its light on the landscape. The sparrows and finches danced in the Cape honeysuckle and crowded the copper birdbath below it, dipping in then puffing up. The red-throated hummingbirds flitted about. A handful of doves looked like musical notes on sheet music perched on three power lines above the rain-soaked inflatable lawn décor. All seemed right with the world as I sat inside my cozy house … until I heard the sirens near Foothill Boulevard, signaling the loss of one of our community members.

Ever since the fateful day we lost Ben when I hear sirens, I think of the first responders who came to our house and helped us. I think about those who may be hurt and say a prayer for strength, that they may find their way back home to their families so their loved ones won’t have to spend future holidays without them. Sadly, this was not the case on Sunday.

We are the foothill communities and we have always been strong together. Let’s remember to support and take care of one other and keep that Christmas morning feeling going throughout the entire 2023.


Susan Bolan