SO the big day is nearly here and for the first time in many years we will not be spending it at home but with family down south.

With an elderly relative living close-by we have always ‘done’ Christmas for the family but 2016 saw him pass away and it will be with him in mind we will celebrate Christmas Day.

And I do mean ‘celebrate’ because he was always laughing and had the biggest appetite of us all!

There must be many families like ours who have this year had to face the illness and in the end the death of a loved one.

It’s a cliche perhaps, but it certainly puts things in perspective.

When our children were little we sadly had to face the loss of three of their four grandparents in one year.

It was devastating for us but imagine how confusing and frightening it was for them.

At the time I was recommended a book which helped enormously.

It tells the story of an old animal whose death has shocked and upset all his friends in the forest.

But gradually the animals realise that their memories of their friend eased their loss.

They called these memories his ‘parting gifts’ and I think at Christmas that’s how I shall think of our relative.

His parting gifts to us were his love of films - he would often tell you the end before you got to see it - and his love of animals.

Many will be making their own memories at Christmas parties right now - some they will want to forget and some that will live on in office folk lore!

I recently met up with some current and former colleagues for a Christmas get-together and having checked we were all okay and what we were up to, we then spent two or three happy hours reminiscing about our working life together and of course lots of gossip about current times!

Cheshire police are running an anti drink/drug campaign throughout December with spot checks on drivers across the county at all times of day. So if you are out and about celebrating and making memories over a drink or two, don’t drive, it really isn’t worth it.

They have already arrested quite a number of people who at best will lose their licence and be fined, but who could be faced with prison or worse; they could have been involved in an accident leaving another family with awful memories of this time of year.

So make lots of happy memories this Christmas. Remember the elderly and lonely and be there for them if you can, but most of all enjoy your family and make lots of ‘parting gifts’ together.

Happy Christmas.