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Harry McAvoy: Reaching out with prayers and a phone

By  Harry McAvoy
  • November 28, 2020

It is late, dark and cold outside. Neve, our 97-pound dog, is standing in the middle of the road in front of our house. I think, silly dog, but just as quickly it occurs to me I am standing right beside her. As Neve and I look down Vincent Street I admire the Christmas lights which make our neighbourhood sparkle.

In spite of COVID-19, which is making everything different, I sense it is still going to be a wonderful Christmas. Having said that, I decided given social bubbles, distancing, masks and relentless hand washing, I might need to put extra effort into the Advent and Christmas festivities to compensate for the isolation associated with the pandemic.

For many joy won’t be found in the usual eggnog shared, but in the creative ways we find to be together, in spite of being apart. I have decided to focus my waiting and wondering in two ways. The first involves making a list of family and friends I plan to call or have online visits with during Advent. The second is to create a list of the people I will intentionally pray for, and there will be many.   

The first on my Advent call list was my godfather, Eugene McAvoy. The Godfather’s memory is a little wonky, like mine, but it didn’t hinder the back and forth and good-natured teasing born of a 61-year relationship. I was my uncle’s best man when he married Val, and their friendship has been a wonderful blessing for the Bride and I.

Next up was my sister Carol Anne, one of my favourite people because she is fun to mess with and is my go-to person on all things McAvoy and O’Rourke. Carol Anne and I are in touch often, so we keep it short. Before we hang up, I ask her for my Aunt Eleanor’s phone number. I don’t remember the last time I spoke with my father’s younger sister, but I was sure the conversation would flow, and it did. Aunt Eleanor’s home was one of my father’s favourite destinations, in part because he loved my aunt dearly, but also because she made the best lasagna and dad thoroughly enjoyed Uncle Silvio’s homemade wine.

My next call was to my friend Keith. He was executive director of the Big Brothers agency in Guelph in 1989 when I was starting out as a new executive director. Way back then I was told “spend a day with Keith, you will learn a lot,” and I did. Health issues have beaten Keith up pretty good, but what a wonderful spirit this man has. We agree to stay in touch, but I tell Keith with my memory issues the ball is in his court.   

I enjoyed these first visits of the Advent season, but also felt sadness over the difficulties that had been expressed.  I also started my prayer list, and will add names as I go. At the bottom I have written, “For all those who have asked for my prayers, or I said I would pray for.” I know it is a blanket statement, but given my memory challenges, God understands. Each connection I make with an old friend or loved one enhances my Advent season, filling my days with greater hope and joy. Just hearing their voices and listening to their stories lifts my spirits.

If you are reading and wondering if it is too late to get started on your Advent outreach and prayers, don’t be discouraged. Instead, borrow a page from my dear mother by making your list and then continuing your calls and special prayers until the Epiphany, which will be Jan. 6. According to my sister, Epiphany was special for my grandfather, James O’Rourke, which made it extra special for his daughter, my mother. Carol Anne says that each year mom insisted on keeping her Christmas manger front and centre until the three kings had arrived bearing gifts. Mom kept this tradition all her years, to honour both her beloved father, and her new born King. 

May your Christmas traditions be a blessing to you and the ones you love.

(McAvoy has been sharing his journey of dealing with memory loss with Register readers.)

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