Do you ever look back at your life and just think, “Wow, look at how much changed in a year!”? I know I do. Especially with Facebook’s latest “On This Day”. I have posts dating as far back as 8 years ago… Basically, 11-year-old me posting strange things like “is so, so upset :’(” (Note to self: Apologize to all who knew me at 11, thank them for sticking around despite). On the other side of the coin, do you ever look back and think, “Hah, last year was just like this year!”? I also do that. I’ve also begun to notice a trend. The things that change tend to be circumstances. The things that remain the same seem to be family and friends (I mean the kind of friends you can call at 3am for advice, not just the people you say hi to in the hallway at school). That’s what I want to look at through 3 Christmas/winter episodes of Clannad ~After Story~.
WARNING: This post discusses episodes 9, 13, and 21, so if you do not want massive spoilers, (*Monopoly voice*) do not click “Read More”, do not continue this post.
In episode 9, we see Nagisa (one of the main characters) has to face a realization that she will miss exams, forcing her to return to school next year and graduate a year behind her friends. Essentially, her circumstances take a negative turn. It is completely beyond her control to fix it, forcing her to merely accept the consequences and try to recover. However, she manages to find some joy in the situation. How? Through her friends. Despite the busy-ness of their exams, not to mention the Christmas season, they make a point of surprising Nagisa to celebrate her birthday (December 24) as well as Christmas. Her circumstances were not ideal, but her friends and family pulled through for her.
In episode 13, set about a year after episode 9, Nagisa’s health takes a turn for the worse yet again. However, it is not nearly as bad as the previous year. This time, she manages to attend and pass her exams, meaning she can graduate at last. Much to her surprise, she does not have to celebrate her graduation alone – her friends who graduated before her all show up to celebrate with her. Even in the good circumstances, they make a point of being there for her. Even though, unlike last year, their celebration may not seem as “needed”, they wanted to be a part of the joy and celebration, simply because they cared about Nagisa. It was her graduation, but it also brought them joy as well.
By episode 21, many things have happened. Tomoya (the main character, whom the series follows) has married Nagisa. They have had a child, though Nagisa died during childbirth. Tomoya and Ushio (his and Nagisa’s daughter) have been separated for five years, because Tomoya left Ushio with Nagisa’s parents, unable to cope with raising her after Nagisa’s death. However, Tomoya has recently reunited with Ushio, taking a trip with her and deciding to be her father, which leads to the events of episode 21. Ushio, sick with a bad fever (similar to her mother), requests another trip with her father. Tomoya finally gives in, realizing it may be the last wish he can grant her. However, before they can begin their trip, Ushio dies in Tomoya’s arms. Not a good Christmas circumstance by any means. However, it is at that point that Tomoya (who isolated himself after high school) finally realizes the importance of family.
So, what’s the point? You just made me relive two of the saddest moments of anime (I’m sorry, I do have a point, I promise) so can you get to the point?
Here’s the point: Circumstances will change, but it’s your family and friends that are important, and will stick by your side. Through all three of these Christmas/winter episodes in Clannad ~After Story~, only one stands out as sad – the one where Tomoya loses Ushio. The one where the loss of family is experienced. The one where we all feel Tomoya’s loneliness to some degree (yes. I’m sorry, I’ll stop with the sad feels in a minute, promise). Sure, we feel sorry for Nagisa in episode 9 for her missing graduation, but we know she can graduate a year later. And sure, we probably feel bad for her when she gets sick during exams the next year. (I think we also all feel for Tomoya trying to win Nagisa’s father’s approval during episode 13, too…). However, those feelings seem washed-out next to the tear-causing emotional pangs of episode 21. Why? Because in those examples, it’s not the circumstances, which we know can change, that cause a problem. It’s the loss of family and the finality of it that makes us really feel something.
So I apologize for making you remember all those brutally sad moments, but again, it was all for a point. To remind you to focus on circumstances a little less, and family and friends a little more this Christmas (and perhaps for all Christmases from here on in). Yes, you may have a Christmas that involves a large Christmas dinner and fancy Christmas presents. However, you may have a Christmas where that isn’t an option. Maybe you spend Christmas stuck roadside in a motel due to weather. Maybe you’d rather be in Florida, out of the snow. Circumstances, however, are so flimsy. They change so easily. What really ought to count around Christmas is something we often take for granted, or tend to focus on less than our circumstances in this season – our family and friends. Our relationships.
This Christmas, try and find your joy not in the circumstances of your holiday, but in your family and friends. Take joy in the relationships and connections you have with people around you. Now, before you start thinking, “What if I’m not close with my family?” or, “What if I don’t have a lot of friends?”, I want you to refocus again. Yes, it’s great to find joy in your family and friends. However, it’s even better when we find our joy in a bigger family we don’t often consciously remember we’re a part of. A family we were adopted into the moment we accepted Christ. We are all children of God. He is our father and our fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We all have a father who loves us more than we can comprehend and will always do so. Although it’s hard, I hope that even if your circumstances at Christmas aren’t ideal this year, you can remember that you have the best family you could ask for, and that your circumstances may look very different next year. Your family, however, will stay your family. That’s what really counts in the end.