I have had the opportunity to visit many in our faith family recently who have had to be in a health care facility. During the Christmas season, though, these visit take on a different feeling. The world outside the facility is full of music, shoppers, special family activities of baking goodies, wrapping gifts, decorating and more. The care centers and hospital environment works hard to create Christmas in decorating, and the music and special seasonal activities help to address the feeling of being in a health care facility.
One thing I have always noticed is the wide range of feelings that seem to surface when a sickness or other health event happens during the holiday season. When a loved one is away from home and can’t be involved physically in the preparations of Christmas, the feelings of sadness, loneliness, even anger tend to surface. Depression is so common, and one person stated to me that “I feel like I am outside looking in at my favorite time of the year and the family has forgotten me.”
In my conversations during the visit, we talk about what ways we can view the holiday season of Christmas while in a hospital bed or recovering from a recent health event that limits ability to “do the usual things”.
We spend time reminiscing about past celebrations, Christmas programs of childhood, even the recent years of holiday events. We share together the Christmas story of the birth of Christ and how the family must have felt as they journeyed to Bethlehem away from home and in unknown environments. We celebrate our memories of the traditions of the past years, and we find hope in the strength and peace of our faith as we visit and share memories and prayers.
Bringing an ornament, a small tree, a special book or song, or other things of past Christmastimes is a wonderful way to create memories of joy and peace even away from home. A manger scene ‘stick on decoration’ in a hospital room on a mirror can change the whole environment in a second. A wreath on the door of a shut-in home can create feelings of warmth and love and remembrance.
I hope that all of you are taking a few minutes each day to pray for those who are not able to be home for Christmas. If I can help in any way, please contact me.
Cynthia Rutan, RN, Parish Nurse at Peace Lutheran Church and School