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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12-22-23 – Standing Still

Solstice - derived from the Latin sol ("sun") and sistere ("to stand still")


We are in the darkest of days. We just passed through the Solstice yesterday, at 10:27 p.m., EST. From here on out each day gets a little brighter until mid-2024. One of my favorite things this time of the year is seeing our home with all the warm glow of light on the mantles and front door. I have always liked the idea of bringing a little extra light into the abode. Our home gleams as the world is dark and the wind howls through the naked winter trees. The incandescence provides a sense of comfort. Time is as close to standing still as the tempo of a year has in its quiver, at least for me.


Traditions are important, they remind us of the passage of time. I am sitting here thinking about all the Christmas days of yore and those long gone from our table. This year, I lost my father, who passed at age 90, his 91st birthday would have been next Saturday. The list of those no longer at the table grows longer with age, a fact of life. The gathering places have changed a great deal over the years. Starting with those first ones at my parents’ house in what seems a different age. Later, with Julie, we made sure we got to visit both families and fit in two meals. Over the last 26 years, most of those meals were in Western PA. I am thinking back to all those years, now. I suspect many of us are reflective during the Holidays, no matter what you celebrate at this time of the year, if anything at all.


It is all very finite and so very precious. We have had silly holidays and somber holidays. Times hanging out with loved ones. On reflection, the good memories were never about the stuff. I have a rough time recalling most of the things I got as a kid. I think as a kid one year I received a flexible flyer that stands out. I remember sledding down some big hills on that thing. Mixed in are some rougher memories. For me, Christmas week also marks a major loss. I lost my mother on solstice eve when she was 56, which from the perspective of a 59-year-old feels far too young.


In recent years, Julie and I had not bothered with a tree. Last year we changed that. We got a modest Charlie Brown tree, our first artificial one. It is pictured here. A few weeks back, we pulled the old ornament box out of the basement, cleaned the dust off the lid and sifted through our memories. I found ornaments I made in grade school and others from our family tree in the 70s. Hanging ornaments is like pulling out the remnants of days past and putting them on display.


In our home, this year we carry on the tradition of gathering the Miller side of the clan under our roof, this year with a few friends included as well. We are hosting it in our over 110-year-old home in Allentown, where we have lived for 25 years, longer than anywhere else in either of our lives. There have been some losses and changes in recent years. The pandemic hit and disrupted our lives and traditions even more. We have special foods and a plan to just hang out. Maybe hit a movie. Perhaps we will not do much at all. Grateful to have the peeps here in our home for some good times. New memories and reflections on days gone by.


The late days of December are complicated. It is rare for me to be able to focus on celebrations. One Christmas, the very first I worked in the addictions field at age 23, I did a 16-hour shift. A snowstorm left me and one other person managing the adolescent program. I often spent holidays working. It was not uncommon for me to have to leave the family to go spend time with people in the treatment and recovery world, which is also like family in many ways for me. This kind of purpose includes responsibility, even on holidays. Grateful for everyone who has one eye on their phone this weekend.  


Thinking about people in prison or in the first shaky days of recovery. There are far too many of us who will spend these days alone or in places of darkness. I am grateful for those called to serve people. Pulling double shifts or spending their time this weekend helping others though a rough patch. Can anything be closer to peace on earth and goodwill to all than investing a holiday to help another human being?


One of the lessons of aging is that loss and change become part of the landscape of time. We can become bitter and mired in hopelessness and despair or find ways to endure and prevail. Even rough times often have bright facets if we look closely. It is important to find something within our experiences that warms our hearts and brings smiles to our faces. Even memories of better years. Or perhaps recognizing that these are the good old days we shall one day cherish.


Not sure what is happening in your home this year. If this is a time of pure bliss or a time complicated by loss or hardship?  Are the holidays something to celebrate or endure? Are they a little of both? Whichever they are for you, I hope you can take a moment and stand still to reflect on something, some person or some event that has meant something to you this year. I don’t think we do that as much as we should. Perhaps make it a tradition to share thanks, even if it takes some digging to find.

What are you grateful for today?  

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