Not feeling particularly festive this Lunar New Year. I know why. For the first time we will not be visiting Ah Hoon Kor to wish her happy new year. She passed away in July last year. She was my dad’s sister, and the last member of the family from that generation. I miss her, and in missing her I miss my dad and all from that generation. Not having her to visit this New Year is significant. Something is missing and will not come back again.
I am also down because mum is further down her road of Alzheimer’s dementia. It’s just been a few weeks since Bernice was here but mentally and physically mum is weaker. It’s tough to see mum like that. You have to wonder how many more times we will get to celebrate Chinese New Year with her. We also wonder about how we should care for her in the days ahead.
Yesterday (14 Feb) was Ash Wednesday, which among other things is a day to remind us of our mortality. “[F]or dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19b NIV) No one ever told me that Chinese New Year is as much a time of grief as it is a time of rejoicing. You rejoice with those who are there but are also reminded of who is not there. You celebrate the good times but are also confronted by the difficult times.
This will be a tough New Year for many. Darling Bernice lost her beloved third aunt last week. Facebook tells me that many of my friends have lost loved ones recently, and of course New Year will remind us of those we lost in 2017. How then are we to face the ambiguity that is Chinese New Year and other similar feasts?
Embrace grief as a journey to be walked and not a problem to be solved. Grief hurts but it has to be embraced if we are to be healed. It is right to feel pain in the face of significant losses. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). It helps to grieve in community. Share your memories of the one who has gone with others who knew them. Share your struggles as you face changing circumstances with those who listen lovingly and who may have ideas as to how to cope with your new concerns.
Be thankful. Remember all the love and good times you had with these people you cared for. See them all as gifts undeserved. Of course, this may bring tears as well as smiles and that’s ok. You miss them this New Year, but you had many new years with them. And if these folks have failed you or hurt you, forgive them. Indeed, death is a reminder of your common humanity. Forgive them as Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
Treasure and bless those who are with you. Don’t let your grief for the past and concerns for the future rob you of life in the present. There are friends and family you may see only once a year. Listen to their stories. Encourage them. Let them encourage you. There is a time to eat, drink and be merry.
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil-this is the gift of God.
(Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NIV)
Resolve to be a better steward of your own life. Nessa Coyle tells us that the awareness that we are about to die is an “existential slap in the face“. She was referring to cancer patients who finally realise that they are going to die. But we are all going to die, even if some of us believe there is a better life awaiting in the next world. Every reminder of mortality is a fresh reminder to number our days (Psalm 90:12).
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Numbering our days is key to living wisely. I am nearer the day of my death than I am to the day of my birth. Have been for some time now. Lunar New Year is a good time to reflect on how I am to invest whatever time the Lord chooses to give me. I have to be more ruthless in cutting stuff from my life that is not of the Lord, even good things that are not God’s things for me.
So, Happy New Year? Maybe. But here’s hoping it is a meaningful one.