Seeking Christmas Spirit

It’s hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it – this dark cloud that has cast its shadow over everything magical and good. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, but it is exceedingly difficult to get into any semblance of Christmas spirit this year. My brother’s death on the 19th of November last year did not conjure as  deep a darkness that following the trial of his killer has this year; The next court date is the 8th of January when the defense will do their best to plant seeds of doubt in the judge’s mind.  That date looms over me like a huge black mountain and seems impossible to scale, or to set aside. God knows I am trying. It is a bitter pill to swallow, this knowing that the defendant will be celebrating Christmas with his loved ones while we, the family of the man he killed, do our best to put aside the pain and anguish of our brother’s needless death. Life is not fair – but then who ever promised it would be?

I have read stories that tell us that we agree to certain conditions and circumstances before we are born on this earth. That is a comfort to me in a strange way. I can imagine Chris making the decision to be the one to die in order to save the lives of other people who were travelling the highway that day – one of which was a young mother with her three children in her car.

Chris possessed a generosity of spirit that is hard to convey. He was a truly selfless person in many ways. And he was very kind. So I can totally imagine him agreeing to play the role of victim in this scenario. Ah but he was more than the victim of an impaired driver. The many people who approached me and my sisters and brothers following his funeral attest to the mark he made on this world. And not in any big splashy way, but in the small acts of kindness he performed daily. It is this knowing that gives me comfort that no criminal trial or any amount of anguish can ever take away.

Evacuee or refugee?

I have been interested in the plight of refugees most of my life and recently I had reason to sympathize more strongly when I had to flee the wildfire in Fort McMurray, AB. It was a terrifying and horrific experience – one I hope I will never have to experience again as long as I live.  People have been amazing and no words will ever be able to convey my gratitude for all the kindnesses visited upon all evacuees, myself included. In fact many centres are receiving more donations than they have room for, which is a testament to the generosity of people in AB and across the country. Many towns are operating fund raisers to help the people of Fort McMurray or “Fort Mac” as it is affectionately  known – or just “the Mac”.  My family has jokingly referred to themselves as refugees form the Mac….which leads me to the point of this blog…

Refugees are indeed people fleeing from natural disasters; from war; from persecution on a wide variety of grounds. So does that make us refugees? Perhaps! But to my mind there is no comparison to the people who survived  tsunamis, the disaster in Japan a few years ago, or the horrors people of any number of developing countries fleeing wars, natural disasters, etc. have experienced.

As we raced away from the wildfires enveloping our city people were quick to mobilize to help. Ordinary citizens brought gas cans for those stranded along the highway. Perfect strangers paid for meals, strangers offered to house evacuees, the list of kindnesses is very long and very inspiring.

But compare this to a person fleeing their homeland such as the Syrians fleeing civil war, terror, and persecution. For many refugees there is no place to go, no water to drink, no food, and no resources. They may have to trudge on foot for many miles before they reach any kind of refuge or help. They face danger around nearly every bend and arrive exhausted, shell-shocked, and, in many cases, barely alive. While the race away from Fort McMurray was traumatic for many, if not most, of the residents of Fort Mac it cannot compare to what I have learned refugees around the world experience, and that is not to make light of my fellow citizens’ challenges or the pain and heartbreak everybody has experienced to varying degrees. However,  there has been minimal loss of life and we will eventually go back to the Mac to rebuild our lives. Unfortunately, for many refugees in other parts of the world, there is no such luxury as going home.