When the holidays begin to arrive, I have to admit, I have had moments in the past where I have felt sad that I didn’t have the opportunity to share the joys of the holidays with a child of my own.

Growing up in the hills of North Georgia, I was an only child in a very remote area.  And whether there was money or no money that year, Christmas was still always amazing and such blessings came from being surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles and a few lonely church folks we adopted for Christmas.

But when cancer took away my ability to have children in my 20’s, I often thought about the missed opportunities of special Christmas mornings where children’s giggles and laughter could have adorned the hallways. For me, there were no reindeer footprints magically left behind by Rudolph and no milk and cookies to excitedly put out for Santa’s visit. Don’t get me wrong, I had the joy of watching our Goddaughter Allison on Christmas morning and that seem to fit the bill, but as I grew older (as did Allison), some treasured family members began to spend Christmas with Jesus and other family married into families who then moved away, “Santa time” seemed to fade with the years.

Things are a bit different this year, however, and that longing I sometimes felt for the “what could have been” has now become “what can be.”  Much of my life has changed both personally and professionally this year and today there is a peace  (maybe a comfort and joy), inside me this holiday I have not had in several years.   While I will try not to get too religious or over-share in respect to everyone’s beliefs, for me, it seems Christ is more alive and the angels are more present this year than in years past.  Maybe it is the fear of all that has happened in our world these past few months and days, or maybe it is the subsequent idea of future holidays taking on a different meaning with the challenges of the economy and impending political change, I am not sure. But what I am sure of is I am realizing that while I may not have children of my own that will gather around the table, I do find more comfort and peace in loving more deeply the people I DO have in my life today and how much joy they bring to my life on a daily basis.

Many of us have experienced great loss this year and that loss has been difficult to reconcile in our minds at times. And with all the recent tragic events there are many that will see an empty chair around the table –- in most recent events some of them even children taken from this earth far too soon. The magnitude of that fact makes me take a deep, long sigh and makes very little of my own personal “loss” so insignificant.

No matter what religion you are, many beautiful families need our prayers right now. It is my prayer this year that you and your family will join together to light a candle and share a part of your heart and breathe your personal ‘survivor strength’ into the souls of those far less fortunate this year — maybe even a little more than in past holiday seasons. We survivors have learned to look differently at what we have been given as opposed to what has been taken away. While it may seem strange to say, that’s the honest beauty of this disease and something that could not be more true to me this holiday season.

Love what you have today with your family and friends and be okay with what you may feel you have missed out on because of dealing with this disease we call cancer.   Love deeper, hug tighter, share your strength with others and in this globally challenging time, pray for peace.

Between you and me, that’s what this season is truly all about. Blessings to all and to all a wonderful holiday season.

 

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Karen Shayne is the Founder of the Women Survivors Alliance and Principal Partner of New Focus Network, a media company producing lifestyle and positive content across multiple platforms for broadcast, cable, digital and its own SVOD. Karen is a regular contributor to the magazine through her blog and her show "Living Inspired" on NFN.