New Year, New Outlook

By: Candace Hawkins
Thursday, April 1, 2021

The following is an article I submitted to Hard Tales magazine in November 2020. I intended to post it here around the new year, but in all honestly, I forgot until I came across it again today. Call it an April Fools Joke I guess. In many ways, it feels more prescient now than it did then. Spring is in bloom... or at least thinking about it. The weather is warming up. Vaccines are going out. Things are looking up and I'm more ready than ever to feel the sunshine on my face and even the swampy August days to come!

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This year has been hard for everyone. Unfathomably hard for some. Some days, I’m just grateful that I have a job and my health. That I haven’t personally lost anyone to this virus. That “next year” still holds the hope of better things, of all the things we missed out on this year. Other times, I feel the weight of reality – the reality of the number of people I’ve had to care for who have died from this virus. The reality of the number of people who are grieving – for loved ones, for normalcy, for sudden losses of health and employment. The reality that, for many of us, “normal” will never be normal again. No matter who you are, what your politics are, or how you’ve been impacted by everything that’s happening this year, we’ve all lost something. Things are pretty grim this holiday season, but there’s never been a New Year that held so much promise.

My deepest hope is that collectively, we can all take some lessons from this year. There are so many ways in which we really took normalcy for granted. I never dreamed that I would be unable to visit my family in California, for example, or be unable to take my pups to the dog park. My needs are few and simple, and even those have been disrupted. When the dog parks reopened in June, I was never so thankful for the simple pleasure of watching them run around and play while I chatted up a stranger – something that used to be so commonplace. Eventually I’ll get to California too, and I have never looked forward to it more. Gradually we’ll see the return of gatherings, motorcycle runs, and concerts. Every little bit we can squeeze out of life seems so much sweeter now.

There’s definitely a tendency for people to want the things they can’t have. Sometimes it’s just greed, but often it’s because we don’t really appreciate the importance of a thing until it’s gone. In the funeral world, we’ve seen a trend of more and more people choosing not to have funerals for a very long time. And we’ve tried to educate the folks we serve on how important these gatherings are. There’s a reason why humans have marked the most important life events with ceremonial occasions for as long as there have been humans. Births, coming-of-ages, marriages, promotions, retirements, deaths. Each of these are milestones, not only to the person experiencing them, but to those in their families and communities. These ceremonies strengthen your ties to the other people who gather to mourn, celebrate, and honor these life events. They create a support system of people whose relationships are strengthened by these shared experiences. I think we’ve been doing this for so long we often take for granted how valuable they can be. I’m guilty of it myself – When my husband and I got married, we opted for a quiet affair between us and the officiant, with the intention of having a larger ceremony when all of our families could get together. Distance, not Covid, was the roadblock that time. But we still haven’t done it. If I could be doing anything in the world right now, I would be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounded by my friends and family, holding that ceremony finally. Not for me or my husband, or at least, not for our relationship. We don’t need a lot of fanfare. But we’ve learned this year just how much we do need all those other people, and how much they mean to us. How much it means to us for them to be part of our lives.

I hope I’m not the only one who is reflecting on these things as we approach the end of this year from hell. Throughout human history, both ruin and enlightenment have always followed periods of great challenge. This is the great challenge of our lives, and the New Year brings us the opportunity to reflect, to heal, to pause and appreciate those things we took for granted, and to make the choice to make this a moment for positive change in our lives, families, and communities. From all of us at Lakeside Funeral Home, we wish you a bright and blessed New Year full of love and life.

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