On the pilgrim way ‘Every event which takes place feels like a gift’
Sheila Maxey sees the gift in every event
I don’t usually feel this lighthearted at the beginning of another year. The news is as bad as ever: Omicron rampant and so many people’s Christmas hopes of family meetings or escape to the sun dashed. Still no safe way for refugees to reach the UK. Brutal killings in Myanmar. So many people waiting too long for treatment and operations to relieve their pain and perhaps save their lives. So why do I actually feel happy?
I think Covid has something to do with it. Somehow every good event, gathering or meeting which actually takes place feels like a gift. Someone could have tested positive, the government could have ruled the gathering out – in addition to the normal uncertainties of travel and health. And once the sense of every good thing being sheer gift had become my Christmas mindset, the gifts were everywhere, even coming out of unfortunate circumstances.
A granddaughter became ill in a student house in York and so our daughter, Mary, here from Holland to visit us, fetched her to our house and we had a lovely few days together. Non-churchgoers though they are, they came to our carol service and sang their hearts out.
I felt daunted by my usual practice of transforming our sitting room into a Christmas room, with several crib scenes, the tree, and lots of candles. Two nieces paid a pre-Christmas visit and I asked them to help me. (I am not good at that!) They loved it and I felt a bit lighter.
A friend of nearly 60 years, barely mobile, felt brave enough to ask me to fetch her by car so she could attempt our front step. It was the first Christmas since her husband, Tony, died. It was such a thrill to have her sitting in our Christmas room as she and Tony had so often before.
As Christmas Day and our larger family gatherings approached, we got more nervous, everyone testing every day. When our daughter, Ruth, and her family arrived on Christmas Day it seemed such a relief. On Boxing Day, we were 19, and after the past year and a half of pandemic being able to open the door to all these people, most of whom I have known all their lives, was sheer gift.
As usual, as the light began to fade, we all squeezed into the Christmas room, lit all the candles, and our son, Peter, and our youngest grandchild, Poppy, led us on their fiddles in several carols. That nearly moved me to tears, but not so much of sadness as at the beauty of the sound and the scene before me. On occasions like that I am often tempted by an insidious voice that says ‘There will never be another gathering like this again’ and a weight of sadness comes over me. However, that did not happen this time. I just rejoiced and thanked God with all my heart.
Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex
This article was published in the February 2022 edition of Reform