It is the season to be jolly, as all the songs and magazine articles will tell you,but for some of us that is not how we feel.

Family is the most important part of the Christmas season, the laughter,the visits of far away relatives,the children with their
games and of course,last, but not least, the Turkey!!

I remember many happy holiday times when all my family were gathered together to celebrate this wondrous season,we would share family stories,look at old photographs,play silly games and just revel in being together.

Those days are now gone.

I lost my mother several years ago, just befor Christmas, and it made for a very sad holiday. My father had passed away many years before, so it was very important to my brother and I that she was
with us and our families, at Christmas. I remembered how during the first Christmas that my father was absent,looking at the Christmas
cards and realizing that I could not send a “To My Parents” card.

As time goes by, memories fade and are replaced, and for the next few Christmas seasons ,we created new memories,with our mother in the middle of our celebrations.These happy times,unfortunately,were not to last long.

When my mother passed`away, it reduced our family gatherings to
my brother’s family and my own. I once again looked at the Christmas cards and felt so sad ,that I could not send any greetings to”My Mother at Christmas”.

Just 2 years later, my loving brother passed away, from an illness that devastated the family. My grieving knew no bounds,and I was now, the only remaining member of my family.

I did not celebrate Christmas that year, the feeling of sadness was too deep and I could not feel joy. As I looked at the Christmas cards ,the feeling of loss was overpowering, as it seeemed that I had no one left in my immediate family to send a card to. Father,Mother,Brother, all gone,leaving me alone.

One day, my friend asked me to visit her sister in hospital ,and I agreed.I do not like visiting hospitals as a rule,but
she was a good friend and I did not want to disappoint her.
It was just before Christmas, the ward was filled with flowers,the patients doing their best to smile and take part in the Christmas festivities. One elderly lady, I noticed,had no visitors at her bedside,no flowers on her tray and was lying very quietly, as if not to disturb anyone.

I ventured to her bedside and asked if she had family coming.She looked at me sadly and told me that she had no family left,she was alone.I left her bedside and went down to the hospital gift shop, where I bought a Christmas cactus plant and took it back to the ward,to the old ladies bedside table and placed it there.She looked at me with a smile and nodded her head in acknowledgement,
too feeble to raise it from the pillow.

I sat beside her for sometime,she didn’t speak, just lay with a smile on her wrinkled face, a face that had seen many years and would not see too many more days.She seemed to know I was there
and this somehow gave me a sense of peace, that I hadn’t known, since my brothers death.I reluctantly left her side, as it was time for visitors to leave.That night,I prayed for the first time in many years,and vowed to go back to the hospital the next day.I took a shawl that had belonged to my mother to the hospital,hoping to give the old lady something to comfort her.

As I approached the ward where she lay ,a strong memory of my mother enveloped me,and I found myself smiling.I gathered the shawl in my arms and walked to the bedside,only to find that the bed was empty.I was too late.

I left the hospital in a strange frame of mind,I never knew who the lady was,but she had given me something that I had lost,the feeling that life matters,that loneliness ends,that I could still reach out and touch someone ,if only for a moment.

Ena Clewes Journalist and short story writer. Visit

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