New Year is traditionally a time for reflection and resolutions; a time when we examine our lives and vow to be better in the year coming up. But two events in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve made me stop and think in a way I never have before.
They happened on the same day, both casually popping up on my Facebook feed as I scrolled through the messages of: “I’ve eaten the last After Eight. #sendhelp.”
The first one was from a friend I shall call Marie, marking her son’s first birthday. It was a beautiful image showing her cuddling her little boy.
However, this wasn’t a normal “so proud” post. Marie’s son was born with a rare illness and has spent most of his first year in an incubator on breathing equipment and undergoing operations. That he was able to be cuddled was a major achievement and I felt tears prick my eyes.
The second post couldn’t be more different – an e-friend letting us know that her boyfriend, Simon, had died after a long fight against cancer.
Two posts, one celebrating a new life and the other commemorating a (not-so) old one.
Messages of love
In many ways, they were a fitting metaphor for the end of one year and the start of another. But it wasn’t this that dominated my thoughts over the next couple of days; it was the love that shone through.
I have always thought Marie, a nurse, was an amazing person. A few years ago, her father was ill and she would take him to and from the hospital each day before returning to the same hospital a few hours later to start her shift. And all with a cheerful smile and a joke.
She was the same when I visited her last year: laughing, smiling and cooing at the baby son she couldn’t hold.
“I’d sit in a corner and cry,” I told her.
“You think I haven’t?” she replied. “But what good will that do him? He doesn’t deserve that.”
Her post over Christmas was the same, talking about the successes and failures they’d been through, the tears and, most importantly, the smiles, because her brave little boy deserved nothing but smiles every day.
“You give us a lesson in life every day,” she wrote. “You show us what is truly important.”
As I read it, I felt humbled by her strength and honoured to have her as a friend. And I wasn’t the only one – her post was followed with messages of love and support.
Strength beyond measure
Simon faced his battle in the same way. He wrote about it on a blog, detailing bravely and honestly how treatment made him feel.
But what shone through in every word was the love he had for those around him. “I consider myself lucky,” he wrote. “While this is probably a shorter time on the planet than I was hoping for, I cannot truly feel too cheated.”
The news of his death was followed by hundreds and hundreds of posts on both Facebook and Twitter paying tribute to him.
Now I’ve never met Simon nor his girlfriend. This is a 21st century friendship and I know them both through the words they write on social media. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them both. To have touched so many people is truly awesome.
My New Year resolution
Over the next couple of days, I heard lots of people talking about the new year; how 2018 had been a terrible year and their high hopes for 2019, when they’d lose weight, meet the partner of their dreams, go to the gym every day, find the ideal job – the usual.
It made me think about the people like Marie and Simon, the people who don’t have the luxury of thinking about the next year because the next day is a major achievement.
And for the first time, I didn’t join in the resolutions. I didn’t condemn 2018, even though it has had its moments. I didn’t say: “This will be my year,” as I have almost every year since I turned 18.
Because those Facebook posts made me realise that there is no good year nor bad year nor New Year. There is only life, good and bad.
And at the end of the day, it is the love we give to others that matters.
So I suppose I have made a resolution of sorts: I resolve to love more.
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