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Published December 2021

Photo Credit: Gareth Harper-Uunsplash

Marilynn Vanderstaay

Christmas...The holidays... The decorations and the rituals of creating ornaments and tree trimming to the sounds of familiar Christmas carols while enjoying mugs of eggnog and hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and whipped cream.

Those sights and sounds literally surround us starting just after November 1 and follow us until they culminate with the Christmas feasts and piles of gift boxes wrapped up in festive papers and ribbons.

If you are you some of the privileged who enjoy the festivities, the Hallmark movie like families, the tree timing and are looking forward to that special day, please and sincerely enjoy.

No this is not about the homeless and the very poor who are excluded except through missions and food banks whose kind volunteers serve festive meals with genuine Christmas wishes.

And this is not about the children who do not receive gifts or the people in the two thirds world who suffer daily and should make us feel guilty. No This is about that quiet minority… or perhaps majority… of professional adults often retired, who do not have anyone to spend the special day with, although many of them did, they are divorced and widowed or never married, childless or estranged, and how they can cope with that being of aloneness.

Being a problem solver by nature I found ways to overcome those feelings of sadness and being alone that can easily overtake us. If we let them. At 68, and a five-time cancer overcomer, I have spent too many of the last 35 birthdays and Christmases alone. But I have learned through experience Jesus is always with us and since it is the day we celebrate Him,,, He is The Reason for the season, I have learned to focus my day around Him.

I plan for Christmas day as if company is coming, since He is. I purchase my favourite breakfast pastries… apple turn overs, iced cinnamon buns and Danishes and fill my fridge with favourite Christmas beverages of eggnog and spices, chocolate milk and marshmallows and spray whip cream for hot chocolate and perhaps a bottle of brandy… the kind that burns the back of your throat if you don’t add it to eggnog and hot chocolate. To make it healthy I can add a hard-boiled egg, some cooked frozen mixed vegetables and a bowl of brown baked beans and perhaps a potato hotcake. On a budget the whole meal without the brandy cost less than $20 and I of course have leftovers I can freeze.

I serve it on a festive plate in bed and watch a Christmas mass, perhaps partaking of the sacraments as I begin my celebration of the Day, I spend the rest of Christmas morning or perhaps the afternoon in praise and worship, reading the Word and bringing my friends and family I cannot spend the day with into my home by praying for them.

If I don’t take myself out for a walk, I can phone friends across the miles who are also alone. And I can always watch some of the favourite Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street, both versions, It’s a Wonderful World. White Christmas and more.

For my festive dinner I pre bought a frozen dinner; one of the more interesting and more expensive I don’t usually buy… no I am not much of a cook or baker. I heat it up and watch it either at my dining room table with all the pomp of a Christmas meal, but more likely in front of the television continuing with the Christmas movies, I end up on the couch, curled up in my nightgown and a blanket either on the phone or in front of the television.

Before I am ready to go to bed, I go to the kitchen, take out a muffin or a cup cake in which I have inserted a birthday candle and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. And for those of you who will remind me Christmas Day is not really His birthday… we think He was born sometime in September… just play along. Jesus does. Merry Christmas and a blessed 2022.

By the way, 35 years ago I was a near miss suicide attempt. Although I was working in a fun job selling corporate Christmas parties I just felt so alone. Although I had three wonderful children under 12 I cherished, the transition of going back to work after 12 years of being a stay at home mom had to some degree detached me from them and I was alone. Alone in a room filled with family and friends. So alone I just wanted the pain to stop.

I was on life support for 18 hours and when I took myself home some ill-advised influencers in our lives gave my husband bad advice that led to the breakup of our marriage.

That is the sad part of the story.

The good news is that I lived and got some counselling, not medical but life strategies training. I went back to school, took a writing course and became a professional journalist. Two years later I stood up at a woman’s networking Christmas lunch and shared my story. Four years later noted London entrepreneur Marilyn Harris called me fast tracking in business in London.

God loves the Word impossible. If you are feeling very alone this Christmas KNOW you are never alone. Jesus is with you. And there are people who do and will care for you. Reach out and meet them for a coffee on Christmas at a coffee shop. You will never regret it. Love, Marilynn

About the author; Marilynn Vanderstaay
Marilynn is a deep-rooted Christian whose life as a Believer since she was just three is intertwined with everything she puts her hands to professionally and personally.

A community investment specialist, she is a journalist and columnist who writes for community, local and national publications celebrating life and successes, yet when necessary, exposing the not so nice. Her columns and e-zines are read and enjoyed.

She is a soft skills trainer/inspirational speaker. A fabric artisan whose works hang in a gallery in Old Montreal and are published in a coffee table book.

And she is an impresario who organizes faith, friends, food, and fun events. And yes, she is a five-time life threatening cancer overcomer, healed by Jesus to declare the illustrious acts of the Lord. Psalm 118:17