It’s Christmas morning and I am sitting in my undecorated living room. I laugh to myself thinking about the other night when my parents and I were watching the PBS special Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas with Vanessa Williams. We were singing along and enjoying the warm fuzzies of the Holidays. My mother remembered a lot of the words to our favorite Christmas carols. Surprisingly, my father chimed in with his baritone voice…
“ Deep in heavenly peace…”
I opened my eyes and said “ who in heavenly peace???” My father said “Deep — what?” I informed him that the word is “sleep” and he was dumbfounded that he had been singing the wrong words for nearly 70 years.
My mother laughed as well, and continued singing along, her honeyed voice soothing the edges of a very stressful year. She sounded so full, so clear. The best she’s sounded in years, as dementia had caused her voice to weaken and soften over the years.
In fact, my mother was having a really good day, despite a few sleepless nights in a row the week prior. That day, she was present, lucid, and aware. Just as she had been the previous Friday when my parents and I celebrated my graduation from my master’s program.
I dawned my cap, gown, and master’s hood. My mother dressed in an elegant kaftan and my father in a luxurious sweater. And we sat before our smart television and watch my 40-second clip from my virtual ceremony.
My mother gasped and brought her hand to her heart when my name appeared on the screen. Earlier in the day, as we prepared for our little at-home ceremony She didn’t have much to say in that moment, but her reaction let me know she understood the enormity of the moment and was filled with pride at her baby’s accomplishment.
In these fleeting moments of joy, I was truly at war. I had to fight off the dread monster that sought to overshadow these sweet (though fleeting) moments spent with my family. I could keep replaying the days earlier that week when pent-up stress spilled from my body as I was wracked with pain and panic attacks disrupted my post-exams glow. I could still be living in those events right now.
As many of us learned this year, lamenting over circumstances over which you have absolutely no control is not only senseless (though tempting for all of us), but toxic to your mind, body, and soul.
So, on this day where I, as a Christian, celebrate the birth of my savior Jesus Christ, I choose to “seek peace and pursue it,” falling deep into heavenly peace. I will count my blessings and give thanks for my family, my friends, my education, and new opportunities on the horizon.
The holidays are hard for a lot of people, especially this year. But I encourage everyone — regardless of your faith or lack thereof — to take even just a brief moment today to take stock of the good things in your life. Center them in your heart and mind. Let yourself be overwhelmed with gratitude. Enter deep into heavenly peace. Then, whenever you are feeling overcome by dread, fear, or grief, return to this moment and let it carry you through.