With family together around the holidays, after Christmas traditions are often as meaningful as Christmas traditions, but sometimes life gets in the way in a dramatic way.
Ten years ago, on Christmas Day eve, the words of the 2004 tsunami came to us like headlines through the phone line from my brother-in-law.
“Thousands feared dead. Seaside villages wiped out.”
My husband, a native of India, put his hand over the receiver. “It’s Decruz. Turn on the news. Something terrible has happened back home.”
Our “after Christmas traditions” were set aside. My husband, Bishop Leo Michael, immediately spearheaded a very successful national fundraising event. He promised to take 100% of the contributions to the most affected tsunami victims in the most decimated areas around Nagapattinam, South India.
A pastor and native of South India, he had worked around the affected coastal region for more than twenty years. He understood the living conditions of the fisherfolk and could well imagine the horrible aftermath of the monster wave that took the lives of tens of thousands.
Our family and church flew into fundraising mode. Then, ten days after the tsunami, my husband and I flew to India.
Being a former journalist, and current freelance magazine writer on assignment, I geared up to trek into impassable villages with my husband where the dead still washed up on the shoreline and massive cremation fires still burned. Villages were destroyed.
Almost ten years later, we returned to the same villages and met the orphans we’d helped. We encountered surprising changes and gleaned a deeper insight into the lives of the fisherfolk and tsunami survivors.
Traditions are a wonderful way to keep a family united, but sometimes life gets in the way and a family has to make adjustments. I was proud of my teenage for understanding and supporting us in those days following the 2004 tsunami. As adults now, I hope they realize the importance of traditions, but have also learned to be flexible and set aside plans when necessary.
In your writing, consider how the unexpected can wreak havoc with holiday traditions. Does a greater good come out of accepting an unplanned challenge?
And if you’d like to follow our journey in my THEN and NOW nonfiction book, TSUNAMI 2004 – Still Wading Through Waves of Hope, it was published today on the tsunami anniversary, December 26, 2014 on Amazon and is only $2.99. A percentage of the proceeds go towards our relief fund to help educate the orphans of the tsunami.