I wish a happy birthday to my great-niece Elora who lives with her mother in Huddersfield with her mother (my niece Evie) and her siblings. Elora is 2 years old today. We also wish a happy birthday to Jenny Harris from Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary, Ireland.
I also wish to mention all of the medical and administration staff at the Haworth Health Centre, especially Diane Marchewka, for their good work carried on within the Haworth community during the whole of 2020. Your work is valued and highly appreciated, and it pleases me to jointly dedicate this morning’s song to your good self and colleagues, Diane.
My Christmas song today is ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’. This Christmas song was written in 1960 and released the same year by American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown. The song started way down the hit list in 1961 and although it appeared on the Christmas Chart every subsequent year, it was 1972 before it became a Number 1 hit. The song was written by Charles Brown and Gene Redd and was covered by many artists, including the Eagles in a popular 1978 recording.
There will be many of us this year waiting to be reunited with loved ones at Christmas time. In fact, this will be the strangest Christmas of all for most of the world as Covid-19 still pervades our lives, restricting our freedom of movement in ways that few of us will ever have witnessed before.
While we have all missed those basic things we always took for granted, like the pleasure of a hug, a kiss, an embrace, a handshake: having a sexual encounter with our lover: be able to freely mingle in a group of more than six outside: visit the pub, eat in a restaurant, attend a church service, or a family birthday bash: be at the birth of one’s first child: visit one’s elderly parents or one’s grandparents in an old folk’s home, visit one’s dying relative in hospital, and attend their funeral and burial service to say a final ‘goodbye’.
One of the things we have all taken for granted for so long has been the wonderful NHS we have in this country, and the quality of service we have all now come to expect. Being unable to access the hospitals and all other National Health Services like GP surgeries as normal, and having all elective hospital operations and procedures cancelled, has created much pain, discomfort and heartache, especially when families have not been able to attend the bedsides of dying relatives, or even dying themselves because of serious hospital tests and other vital screening procedures being postponed and delayed, even for people awaiting life-saving diagnosis and cancer operations. In fact, it is ironic, that because the whole country has grown to expect nothing but the highest of medical care from our hospitals and doctor’s surgery for so long now, that when the system becomes overburdened (as it has during this Covid-19 pandemic year just experienced) we complain when we cannot receive the same exacting high standards from any branch of the NHS and associated community care staff.
For many, this Christmas cannot come around fast enough, and for some, alas, it is a season this year to be feared like never previously. Some would argue that the country has been instilled with so much fear and fed so many falsehoods by all manner of sources (including government and public and social media) that whatever we are left believing, there will be sufficient uncertainty remaining in all our minds to spoil our Christmas in some large measure.
Like many parents, I have not seen any of my children more than once since Christmas 2019. Indeed, I have not seen my son, William, for three years now when he last visited us from Australia where he went to live many years ago. A few months ago, William travelled to England and is currently living at his mother’s house in Somerset and will see me over Christmas briefly. He is naturally wanting and needing to see me, given my terminal blood cancer and the uncertainty of my future life-span. He is provisionally planning to return to Australia after the spring of 2021. There is simply no way that I will not hug my son, whatever the risk to myself, upon his arrival and departure this Christmas. It could be the last hug between a father and son. I have rented him a house nearby for his short stay, which he will share with his sister Rebecca with whom he has formed a bubble. To play safe, we will eat our Christmas dinners separately but will be in each other’s company for a few hours on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Weather permitting, I will share a walk with him (or rather I will let him push me in a wheelchair if indeed it is a longer stroll we settle for).
This is far from an ideal situation or a perfect Christmas setting, but we shall be together for a while, and that must be better than all other situations of people across the world who are less fortunate than us and will not be able to see their loved ones. There will be some people this Christmas who will be on their own. There will be some who are homeless, some who will be cold and hungry, and some who will be friendless. There will be some who will be in the depths of despair and suffering severe depression without any access to mental health providers who will sadly commit suicide (like Sheila’s only sibling, brother Winston did when he tragically took his own life at the end of July 2020). Not forgetting that some people will be bereaved of loved ones and lifelong partners who lost their lives to Covid-19, or who died from other illnesses during the past year for which they could not get the required treatment. Last, but by no means least, there will be people in poorer parts of the world who want out and will go to any lengths risking life and limb to gain access to safer shores and better provision of life’s essentials. While we may not be able to significantly do anything significantly as an individual to help the refugee and their family, I beg of you, please do not walk past a beggar (masked or unmasked) without giving them a pound coin, a warm smile, seasonal greetings, and a silent prayer.
Sheila and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Love and peace xxx