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Heartbreak and parenting. There is not one without the other.

Warning- this post gets preachy, sentimental, and down right tearful. Some sing through their sadness, paint or go running. I write. So read and bear with me. Get a latte, a cocktail, whatever- this is going to take awhile.

I gripe a lot about my children, and my poor husband. But the reality is, I could not live without them. And I hope I never have to. With that said, I have seen a lot of heartache from parents I know. Losing a child is THE most devastating part of life I can think of. And anyone who knows someone who has lost, thinks, “Gosh, I’m guilty of thinking, Glad it’s not my kid. But how horrible for them.”

I was originally going to write about the upcoming anniversary of our friends’ daughter’s passing, Siona Shah. She went to be an angel on New Years Day 2011. As a community and neighborhood we were heartbroken for this family’s loss. Siona bravely battled Leukemia and was only 6 when she died. Her parents, Nigam and Reshma and her older brother, Sohil, like to talk about her passion for purple, her love of princesses, unicorns, the color pink and butterflies. We climbed the Columbia Tower to raise money for LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and dozens of people ran with Team Siona in the Rock n Roll marathon to raise money for LLS. I have a new found respect and admiration for the Be the Match Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Both organizations were there for Siona and her family. I know many lives have been touched and maybe saved because of her legacy. My heart is always with you Shahs.

But then this week of holiday happiness between Christmas and New Year’s, when kids are playing with their toys, parents are trying to gain headway on the mess, and looking forward to when school starts again- a sad stream of Facebook statuses was coming through my feed. A little 10 year old boy had accidentally strangled himself with a necktie and his family was praying for him to come through. For two days they kept a prayerful vigil at Harborview, our renowned trauma hospital in Seattle. Hundreds of people prayed for his recovery, there were rosaries, vigils and masses said for him. But to everyone’s dismay, he passed on Thursday to be with his Lord. Little 10 year old Anthony Strauss was now an angel. But what some of us knew, he is joining his sister Gloria, an angel who passed before him.

Little Gloria Strauss’ story was covered in our Seattle Times in the months before she died of a rare, incurable cancer. Many grew to be fond of Gloria, prayed for her and her parents, her then 6 siblings. She passed away at age 11 in 2007. Her family knew she was now an angel. No question. They set up a non-profit to help others going through grief and loss. To lift them in prayer, hope and faith. The way their family, church and friends did for them.

Now they face it all over again. To grieve over their child. What good could come of this? How could God let this happen?

I don’t know.

But this I do know. We have the power to reach each other. To send whatever we can, whether it’s money, prayers, sympathy. There is always death and sadness. There is always birth and joy. Without one, there isn’t another. So we cry, we comfort, we carry on.

And most importantly- we love our kids no matter how crazy they drive us. The night I found out Anthony died- (I didn’t know this boy, to be clear, but the power of Facebook makes you feel like you know perfect strangers.) I was ready to shake my kids and tell them to please go away to their rooms. Let me be and not bother me. I was exhausted, irritated and completely done for. It was about 10 pm. Then I went on Facebook and saw the tremendous grief a family was feeling over not having their boy to run, jump on the furniture, pester his sister, terrorize the cat and ask his mom a million different questions. And I thought- they would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

So I went upstairs, hugged my children, rubbed their backs while they lay in their beds. Kissed their mussed up, sweaty hair. And blessed them each for being there. I thanked God for this. And went downstairs and cried to James.

I have blog readers in Australia, the UK, Asia and of course, the US. If you’d like to reach out to the Strauss family, share their story or  help make a difference, I’ve included several links. And gosh darn, just hug and squeeze those crazy monkeys in your life!

Gloria’s Angels

Be the Match Foundation

St. Jude’s Hospital

St. Jude’s Fundraising page

Toga, Toga, Toga

Well, that was weird. I’m watching the History channel; clearly I must have been confused and had it on by accident instead of the E! channel. It was strange since Kim Kardashian didn’t show up anywhere.

Anyway, this show on the origins of Christmas informed me that nobody knows what day Jesus was born on, the Romans only started celebrating His birthday in the 4th century, and they just lumped it in with their big end of year, winter solstice party that everyone wore their nicest toga to. WHAAT?? Oh that’s just marvelous. Instead of ugly Christmas sweaters, we should be wearing togas.  Why has this not been made clear all these years?

Then later on, the  medieval Christmas was all about rowdy groups going door to door singing Christmas hymns and getting a dip out of the household jug of ale. This would go bad if you didn’t give them a swig of whatever libation and they would threaten to throw rocks at your house or shank you the next day in the village square or something. So they just got drunker and drunker as they went through town. But at least they were singing church songs.

And THEN, the pilgrims got all pissed that Christmas was a Catholic invented holiday because they were Protestant, so they banned it all together. They didn’t want any of that drinking and singing stuff and I think the Roman’s Winter Solstice party to them seemed like a party at the Playboy Mansion so they put the kibosh on the whole holiday. Good grief.

Now I’m all confused.

But I’m going to go out on a limb and say, that those that want to celebrate in whatever way they will, seems to go along perfectly with history.

The importance of celebrating the Winter Solstice in those days is because folks didn’t have frequent flyer miles or points to redeem for a trip to Hawaii in January. Drinking, feasting, lighting candles were pretty much all that got them through the dark days of December. Hmm, sounds kind of familiar.

We can put whatever importance on this day we want to. If it’s Jesus’ birthday you celebrate, Hallelujah.  If it’s secular and pagan traditions, go for it. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Nothing wrong with some revelry, feasting and prayerful reflection, yes? All my non-Christian, Agnostic, Atheist friends are like, “Yeah, Rebecca come to the dark side with us!” and my Christian, conservative, religious friends are like, “Rebecca, Christmas is about Jesus and that is all.” And for me Christmas is still about Jesus. But, it’s interesting to hear where all this stuff got jumbled together. Let’s all be merry together.

So now I’m just thinking of how to bring the toga back for my next Christmas party, and if tights go with it because it does get chilly here.

Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice and thank goodness those uptight pilgrims didn’t ruin the party for the rest of us.