Christmas is a joyful time. It is a time for holding family close, for welcoming loved ones’ home and for celebrating family and friendship. It is an opportunity to create magic for children and sweet comforts for the elderly. As the years roll by, we realise that it can also be a time of great sadness for a lot of people.

That empty chair that should hold Granny or Grandad, Mum or Dad, or your partner always remains a poignant space. It’s so much worse if that empty chair symbolises a young person, gone too soon for whatever reason.

The poignancy and finality of death closes in on us during the festive season. Part of it is that we have time to remember and reflect.

That first Christmas after a family bereavement is profoundly sad. The turkey tastes like dried up paper. The sprouts and carrots are without flavour. The pudding lacks it’s flame and the cake is just a sugar fix. Putting up the tree is a pure chore. The tears are sure to fall as the baubles are lifted. There will be ones that remind you of him or her. Past Christmases will be recalled when she lorded over the turkey or he sat quietly in the chair reading the paper or little ones climbed up for a cuddle. That empty chair is a constant reminder. It doesn’t matter if you turn it around, cover it with a festive rug; it will still be where they sat. On the other hand, it can be a source of comfort and a chance to recall. I like to sit where my Mam and Dad sat in Tipperary and remember the sound of their voices and the close bond I had with them. Nobody can take your memories away. They live longer if we share them with others.

Deceased friends

Every year I think of the people that have died. My only uncle on my mother’s side, Colman O’Flynn, Fermoy, died in August. He was 92 years old. He was the kindest of gentlemen. My earliest memory is of him closing my fingers gently around a half crown. I was a little girl and I loved him dearly. Uncle Colman’s kindness was immense. My late mother, Maria went through a challenging health time during which she had multiple medical appointments in Cork and Dublin. Over two years, Colman drove us everywhere. He was always there to support us quietly. All one had to do was ask. We were in awe of Colman and all he stood for. He was probably the first really successful business man that I knew.

Easy going presence

He started out with a dairy farm, one lorry and an astute business acumen. His legacy is South Coast Logistics and a massively successful family. Colman’s easy going presence will be missed this Christmas.

Recently, Pat Burton died suddenly here in our parish. Pat was in his late 60’s. It was a massive shock to his wife, Eileen and son, Peter. Our lads and Peter were great friends growing up. Pat was former chairman of Inniscarra Community Centre, a former auctioneer and county councillor and proprietor of the successful Model Farm Restaurant. He was definitely a peoples’ man and had a kind word for everyone.

I think of our friend Jimmy Murray who was a frequent Christmas guest in our house. We miss him and think of him often.

Loss of the people we love is challenging. Nevertheless, life is precious and is for living. So as I pause over Christmas, I will think of all the wonderful readers that wished me well in all sorts of ways over the last year. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I wish you all a peaceful and happy Christmas. If you are finding it difficult, then take one day at a time and before you know it, the new year will have come around again and you will feel better.

May all of our deceased relatives and friends rest in peace and hopefully our little ones will have a fun and carefree holiday.

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