Friday, December 19, 2014

Our 2014 Christmas letter

(photo taken in June 2014 at the 80th birthday party for Richard's mom, Audrey)

Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and New Year
from the Prinsen family

Our annual Christmas letter comes to you in virtual form this year.  Because of a combination of life circumstances and ever-rising postage costs, I sent out only a handful of Christmas cards -- yet still wanted to send greetings to everyone and give a brief update on what has been happening with our family in 2014.

It has been a difficult year for us in many ways.  The year began with Richard's brother Doug having major surgery for colon cancer, followed by six months of chemotherapy.  He has made a good recovery, and we're all very thankful.

On Easter weekend our family went to PEI to spend a week with my parents.  We don't normally travel there in the spring, but we had a sense that it was important to see my mom and dad more frequently than just once a year.  That inner prompting seems so significant now, because when we went again to PEI in August for our usual summer vacation, my mom was feeling very unwell and had to be admitted to the hospital.  After extensive testing she was found to have stage 4 liver cancer.  She spent four weeks in hospital and came home to her and Dad's new apartment for a couple of weeks before her death on September 28.  (I've written in more depth about all this in several other blog posts -- see Oct. 13, Oct. 20, Oct. 30, and Nov. 24 -- so I won't repeat all of those details here.)

As you can imagine, I've been reflecting a lot on how quickly our lives can change and how important it is to prioritize family and other significant relationships.  It's also important to make and cherish good memories when we can.  And sometimes those memories will be of things we didn't consider especially significant at the time.  My best, last memory of my mom when she was well comes from our April trip:  she and Allison and I went to see the musical "Happy Days" performed at my former high school, and all three of us laughed from start to finish.  It was a great evening, and a special moment preserved in time.

As Christmas comes closer, I feel the absence of my mom more strongly.  Although we usually didn't see each other at Christmas, we would chat on the phone about gifts and plans.  Last Sunday Richard and Allison and I went to the Barra MacNeils' Christmas show here in Kingston, and I thought how much my mom would have loved such a concert.  I said to a friend, "She'd have been in heaven!" and my friend said wryly, "Well ... she is."  And we talked about how maybe those who are in the presence of God don't have the space/time limitations we have here on earth -- that maybe Mom was there enjoying the music right along with us.  How the tears would have filled her eyes (as they did mine) when the group sang 

"For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, 
we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

There were some highlights to our year, too, however.  Even in the midst of my mom's illness in August, I was able to attend a reunion weekend for the New Christian Singers, a musical group I was part of when I was in my teens.  We had a social and sharing evening, and it was so uplifting -- especially given what our family was going through -- to hear people talk about God's faithfulness in their lives over the past 30-40 years.  We also performed three concerts (I sang in two), and the tears and laughter flowed as we sang old familiar songs together and met past friends and acquaintances.

Still on the musical theme -- but in sharp contrast -- Allison and I went to the Rogers Centre in Toronto this summer to see the British singing group One Direction.  We went with Allison's friend Alex and her mom Juliann, who obtained the tickets for us.  It was quite an experience to hear 50,000 girls screaming when the boys took the stage.  What a blast!

As for what's going on with each of us individually:

Richard continues to work at Kingston General as a nurse and at Queen's University as a clinical nursing instructor.  He still runs regularly, plays soccer, softball, and squash, and volunteers with the Run & Read program and at Circle of Friends at our former church.  He was such an amazing support during my mom's illness, taking over with the kids while we were in PEI in August and also making it possible for me to go down for a week on my own just before Mom died.  I appreciate him so much.

I'm still working as an online writing instructor at Queen's, doing some blogging and creative writing (although that's taken a bit of a back seat this summer and fall), and participating in two women's studies at church, a writing group, and a book study group.

Richard and I also both celebrated our 50th birthdays this year, which I wrote about here and here.

Allison is in grade 11 and having a good year.  She is in concert band, and we love hearing her play her clarinet and seeing how much she's progressed in the last couple of years.  (Last week was the school's Evening of the Arts and Allison performed with her band as well as being one of the MC's for the evening.)  She continues to do a lot of reading and writing, attends a social club and church youth group, and volunteers weekly with Richard at the Run & Read program.

Jonathan is in grade 7 and enjoying school with the support of his awesome E.A., Joe O'Connor ("Mr. O").  Although Jonathan still enjoys many of the same pursuits he always has, such as jigsaw puzzles, DVD's, and "yellow-blue-red" (see photo), he is becoming more independent and showing more pre-teen tendencies.  He can be a challenge at times but he is also very loving, and his enjoyment of simple pleasures reminds us to take time to enjoy life too.

May your Christmas or other holiday celebrations be full of joy and wonder, 
and may 2015 be your best year yet.  
Love and best wishes,
Jeannie, Richard, Allison and Jonathan


  1. Thank you for the update Jeannie. I would have LOVED to hear you in one of those concerts that you sang in. I often hear a song I remember you singing in Kingston church and realise I miss your singing voice. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with you during this first Christmas season without your mom. May 2015 bring new joys and adventures your way. Love from the Hellinga family!

    1. Thanks, Lori - so nice to hear from you! I hope your gang has a wonderful Christmas. Lots of love from our house to yours.

  2. Thank yo for sharing this letter here, Jeannie. Those "first" holidays and birthdays without a loved one can be so difficult. Hope some sweet memories bring comfort as you and your family gather for Christmas this week.

    1. Yo, Michelle! :-) Yes, I knew what you meant. Thanks for the message. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and Chanukah celebration as well and that your new year is a good one.

  3. Your family stories and memories are heartwarming, Jeannie. Thank you for sharing them with us, and I am glad I can experience vicariously and not in person your One Direction concert night.

    Happy Christmas,

    1. Ha ha, Tim! I'd never experienced anything like it -- the decibel level, and the sheer number of people! After the show ended, we headed out of the stadium and started walking back to our hotel, and we must have walked for 20 minutes before we no longer had that feeling of being in a middle of a throng of people pushing and jostling. I wonder how it feels to be so popular that you would draw crowds like that everywhere you go. I'll probably never know. :-)

      Happy Christmas to you and yours as well.

  4. Jeannie, I marvel at your courage this past year. You always find a way to smile and see the beauty in this world. Losing a parent is so difficult. Your Mom sounds like she had a good sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your journeys with us. Wishing you a new year that brings abundant grace every day.


    1. Thank you so much, Ilka - and the same to you. It was so nice to see you and your family last night.

  5. Jeannie, I can imagine how much you missed your mom during Christmas. (How sweet that she's in heaven, at a much grander concert than the one you went to.)

    I turned 50 this past year too. May your last days in 2014 be blessed. It sounds like you've had a full year.

    1. Thank you, Betsy - I really appreciate our online contact and I look forward to more of it in 2015. Blessings on all of your celebrations.

  6. Jeannie, Such a range of experiences all in one year. Thank you for sharing your joys, sorrows and wisdom at navigating through life's challenges. Lovely to know about the whole family. Such a joy and privilege to know you on line and off.

    1. Thanks so much, Sarah - and the same to you.


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