Here we are once more in the space between the years.   Sixty three times I have seen  the sun rise once again from the darkness.   In our youth we take our summers for granted, but now I am a woman of many winters, I find each extra year I’m granted a minor miracle.

Often at this time of year we just look forward to our goals and expectations.   But I thought I might briefly look backwards, especially since in many ways I belong to the ‘ever onwards’ school of  thought and don’t ‘waste time’ looking over my shoulder or regretting what is past.

Firstly, at my mature point in life, I’m glad to have survived the year.    John and I have been blessed with many lovely children, all of whom have delightful families of their own and are successfully getting on with their lives as they see fit.   Occasionally however, in conversation with them, you are suddenly struck by an unexpected pang of anxiety – they are for all their maturity and capability, still very young with a long and hazardous journey ahead of them.    There are mot many compensations for growing old – and no doubt they in their turn look at our signs of increasing  age with concern, and rejoice in their own strength and youth – and this is just as it should be.    But I myself would not return to my youth – not for a wilderness of monkeys.   There is comfort in knowing that you do not regret your decisions in life and though of course you could have done many things better, on the whole you are happy with the path you walked;  and would walk it all again if given the choice once more.

I have come to realise how much we owe  to previous generations, and how unstintingly they gave to us.    Of course we can all find fault with our parents – no doubt our children have faults with us.   But looked at from a mature standpoint, what do these minor errors matter compared with  the magnitude of what they bequeathed to us?

There are the unwitting gifts that flow out from the banks of the DNA of our ancestors.   Our strength, health, intellect, beauty – we do not count these among our assets in any financial calculation, yet they are an inheritance of unsurpassing value for which we made no effort at all.

Then there is the love and attention lavished on us by our parents.   As you watch the huge effort made by your own children over your grandchildren, how they battle on both tireless and exhausted, you recall that you did similarly, and you look back in time and sense that your parents and your ancestors in all their generations more than likely did likewise.   No doubt they made mistakes, but generally these were due to an excess of love, and not to any selfish indifference.

We stand who we are in the 21ast century still supported by the love of our ancestors for their children generations back.   I suppose I reflect on these things now because the death of my mother leaves John and me with no surviving parents between us.   Suddenly we are the oldest generation.

Often we deliberate in our own minds about small actions in life – should we do this or that, and does it matter very much?   But I think it is in the small acts of kindness and love that people’s best character is shown and it is in the memory of these acts that other perhaps more obvious failings will be forgiven and set aside.

As for me, it has been my great good fortune that people have always been much kinder to me than I have any right to expect.   When I consider how much this has meant to me – not only in the actual things done for me, the warm things said, the gifts made, the help sensitively offered –  but in the sense of well-being that one feels basking in the sunlight of other people’s regard, then I think I should perhaps pay more attention to my often quoted self reproach, Could have been kinder.

Now I long ago decided to make no more New Year Resolutions.   I never keep them.   So I’m not going to promise that I’ll turn over a new leaf and become a tolerant, good-natured, easy going person.   It’s never going to happen.   It only needs some especially stupid person to be so insensitive as to meddle with me and all my tender resolutions disappear out the window before you can say, A quiet answer turneth away wrath.   I can of course try and BE more tolerant, good-natured etc but this leaves me so much room for manoeuvre that it is not measurable.   So the most I’ll promise myself is that I’ll try and see the beacon, Be Kinder, and act accordingly, and not just wait to see the flashing verdict, Could Have Been Kinder.

And I trust to the generosity – and yes, kindness – of my friends, not to point out too harshly when I fall short of my ideal!

May the Fates bless you in all your endeavours.   I thank you for all your kindnesses.