My daughter Kaitlyn (L) and her friend Shelby (R)
These two young ladies have the Christmas thing figured out. Rather than exchange presents each year, they gift each other with a rare treat: time spent together. As Christmas approaches, they set aside an entire evening to go out to dinner and then just relax and catch up on each other’s news. I am pretty sure that at their age, had one of my friends suggested just hanging out in lieu of exchanging gifts, I would have opted for the presents! However, the older I get, the more I appreciate the PRESENCE of my family and friends, as opposed to the PRESENTS they give.
Of my 48 Christmases in this world, this has been the most precious one to me because of the presence of my family and friends. First of all, I have been blessed with three beautiful children. While I miss the days of playing Santa and wrapping dolls and toy cars, I now get to experience the excitement of waiting for my daughter, Kaitlyn to come home from University and have them once again all together under one roof. The presence of my three children in our home is by far, my greatest gift.
L to R: Donovan, Ben, Flo and Kaitlyn
I am also thankful for the presence of my 95 year old grandmother. While Nan has enjoyed good health for most of her life, she suffered a stroke a couple of years ago and we worried that that Christmas might be her last. But I am very happy to say that she has mostly recovered, and continues to regale us with her stories and songs.
Flo (L) and Nan (R)
While so many of my friends have lost one or both parents, I am very grateful to be able to share the Christmas season with both my mom and dad. This year, my sister Lynette came from Florida to spend Christmas with us in Newfoundland, bringing together all but one of my siblings.
L to R: Mom, Juana, Sherry, Flo, Lynette and Dad
While my “Calgary sister”, Celeste, was not able to spend Christmas with us in Newfoundland, I was very fortunate this year to spend New Year’s Day with her in Alberta. I am so thankful that she made the three hour drive from Calgary to Sherwood Park with her son, Ryan, to spend a fun filled day together. This is the first Christmas season in many years that I have had the opportunity to spend time with all four of my sisters, and for that I give thanks.
L to R: Celeste, Ryan and Flo
I have also been blessed this year with the gift of new love. I met Steve in May, and the past seven months have been a whirlwind of romance and adventure! Not only are Steve and I in a long distance relationship, but it is what I call a “double long distance relationship”. Steve’s home is in Sherwood Park, Alberta, while I live nearly 7000 kilometers away in Newfoundland. He spends three weeks at home and three in Newfoundland where he works as a helicopter pilot. However, even when he is working in St. John’s, my home is 350 kilometers away in Lewin’s Cove. Despite the geographical challenges, Steve and I have somehow managed to spend a lot of good quality time together. Fortunately, I was able to spend a week of my Christmas vacation visiting him at his home in Sherwood Park, and meeting his beautiful family. Thank you, God for the gift of this wonderful man whose presence in my life is more precious than any present I could ever receive.
Flo and Steve
Finally, the good Lord has blessed me with the gift of good friends. With our busy lives, it is not always easy to carve out time to maintain our friendships, but I am happy to say that I managed to connect with most of my friends this Christmas season. I also experienced my own little Christmas miracle by reconnecting with two very dear friends, whom I had lost contact with for nearly four years.
As I reflect back on 2015, I have so many things to be grateful for. As a cancer survivor, good health will always top my gratitude list. Next to my health, it is the love that I share with my family and friends that means the most to me. Intellectually, I have always known that people are what matter most in life, however one of the perks of having cancer for me was the experience of knowing that truth on a deeper level. When I was too sick to care for myself, it did not matter how many degrees I had, the size of my house, or my bank account. My very survival depended on my loved ones taking care of me. While I always had an appreciation for my family and friends, I now make a more conscious effort to put time into my relationships, and I strive to be fully present with them when we are together.
Wishing you much health, happiness and the love of good friends and family in 2016!