A Little Effort Is Worth the Christmas Joy

A Little Effort Is Worth the Christmas Joy
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It’s been a long, difficult year, so let’s make up for it with over-the-top Christmas cheer. We should decorate our homes from floor to ceiling, and ground to rooftop. Bake, cook, watch holiday movies, listen to carols, buy lots of gifts, wrap them up, display them under the tree, open the spirits, and drink up! Are you feeling the pressure to be merry yet?

For caregivers and those experiencing poor health, even a “less is more” type of holiday can sound exhausting. I understand this all too well. I’m not judging those who pull out all the stops for Christmas. I’ve been that zealous elf over the years, but there have also been Decembers when it felt more like pressure than pleasure just to get the Christmas tree up and decorated.

But I can honestly say that whatever amount of energy I put into Christmas is always well worth the effort. It’s one of those moments in life when I feel compelled to do something, and in the end, it turns out to be good for me.

To help me remember this, I often like to start the season by reading a beautiful poetic tale by Tom Hegg, called “A Cup of Christmas Tea.” It’s about a man who feels guilted into visiting his elderly aunt before Christmas. He’s busy with the Christmas rush, but deterring him even more is the thought of seeing his aunt, whose health has declined after having a stroke. He expects the visit will ruin the happy holiday memories made with her over the years.

Instead, he is enraptured by Christmas nostalgia upon entering her home. His frail aunt managed to delight the senses with a few carefully displayed traditions, including handmade Christmas cards her nephews made as children. The Nativity, tree, and special ornaments were lovingly arranged, and the air was even scented with candied oranges, cinnamon, and pine.

They sat down together and enjoyed a heartwarming conversation, the cookies she had baked, and a cup of Christmas tea. They didn’t exchange material presents, just the precious gift of each other’s company.

When I read the poem, I find myself relating to both the nephew and the aunt. I’ve felt the emotional weight of witnessing the effects of aging and illness, and how seeing that can affect the holidays. I’m familiar with keeping busy to avoid reality, and the benefits of slowing down to drink the tea and reminisce. And I’ve been surprised by my own son, who as a child, still found joy in Christmas even though he was very ill with pulmonary hypertension.

As I get older, I’m inspired to become more like the aunt in the poem. Not knowing if her nephew would make time to visit her, I believe she delighted in the Christmas spirit as much for herself as for him. It would have taken her time and energy to pull out all her special memories and display them, but how happy it must have made her feel when finished. And being able to share it with her nephew was a gift that money can’t buy.

I understand if you feel too sick to decorate for Christmas, but I encourage you to find a few things that are manageable. Perhaps you can display some old Christmas cards and pictures, set up a small tabletop Christmas tree, or arrange a Nativity scene that you can see from your favorite chair. A simple strand of colorful lights or a bowl full of a nostalgic Christmas scent could help brighten up your holiday.

If you don’t feel up to baking, order some store-bought cookie dough for home delivery and pop it in the oven. The smell and the warmth of the cookies baking can feel comforting. Bring out that one thing that you know could change your mood for the better.

Due to pandemic concerns, we are all hopefully staying safe at home this Christmas. But we can still find creative ways to spread holiday cheer. Pick up the phone and call a loved one, join a video chat, send out Christmas cards, or better yet, handwritten letters.

Do you know someone feeling worse than you this year? With their permission, perhaps you could string some lights on a tree near a window where they can enjoy the view. Maybe place a basket of treats at their door. Don’t avoid an opportunity to bring joy to someone in need.

I’ll close with my favorite part of “A Cup of Christmas Tea”:

“But these rich and tactile memories Became quite pale and thin

When measured by the Christmas my Great Aunt kept deep within.

Her body halved and nearly spent, But my Great Aunt was whole.

I saw a Christmas miracle, the triumph of a soul.”

***

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

Colleen Steele was born and raised in New Jersey and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Immaculata University in 1994. Currently, she lives in Washington state with her husband and two sons. Her oldest child was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension when he was 8. At the age of 14, he received a heart and double-lung transplant. He has experienced many bumps in the road but for the most part, he is doing well and living life to the fullest. Colleen’s love for writing, experience advocating for her son, and determination to spread PH awareness inspired her to become a columnist and forums moderator for Pulmonary Hypertension News in 2019. In her, “Life As A Caregiver” column, Colleen is open and honest about caring for her son, his experiences living with PH, and life post-transplant. It is her ambition to educate and inspire others facing similar challenges that her family has battled and survived.

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Colleen Steele was born and raised in New Jersey and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Immaculata University in 1994. Currently, she lives in Washington state with her husband and two sons. Her oldest child was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension when he was 8. At the age of 14, he received a heart and double-lung transplant. He has experienced many bumps in the road but for the most part, he is doing well and living life to the fullest. Colleen’s love for writing, experience advocating for her son, and determination to spread PH awareness inspired her to become a columnist and forums moderator for Pulmonary Hypertension News in 2019. In her, “Life As A Caregiver” column, Colleen is open and honest about caring for her son, his experiences living with PH, and life post-transplant. It is her ambition to educate and inspire others facing similar challenges that her family has battled and survived.

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