Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, the expectation is that we’re all to be jolly and merry and joyful. Some of that probably stems from the religious foundations of the holidays, but much of it comes from the giving and singing and the family traditions we observe.
I found that my sense of Christmas changed the year my dad died. He passed away on the 15th of December after a very brief illness. Consequently, his illness, death, and funeral bumped up against Christmas and New Years without much time to absorb what had happened.
To be honest, it could have been the loss of any of our family members. The fact was that what had always been the same (albeit, growing) cast of characters had now been reduced by one very important player. Even though I was in my 30s, it was one of my first confrontation with the truth of life’s changes.
Come to find out, the absence of change is the oddity. To go for years with things being fine is a gift, and I know I didn’t appreciate it, or my father, enough.
A few years later I submitted my first column to the Cambridge News. It addressed the idea of how life can change quickly, and how Christmas, in particular, is a time when you really feel the changes.
I talked about the song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and how I hadn’t ever really listened to it before my dad died, and about how the line that goes: “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow…” really gets right to the point of valuing our time together.
More than 20 years have passed since that column. We’ve lost family members and added some, and while Christmas will never be the same as it was before that December of 1990, it is better in some ways. The tenuous nature of life has been exposed, and my gratitude for those special days with my family are like gold now. I’m grateful for each minute.
For what it’s worth, the joy I feel at Christmas has become bittersweet over the years, and there is some pain with the happiness. I don’t think it could be any other way. It isn’t even a bad thing, really.
It is my hope that your holiday celebrations are joyful, and that the memories you have about the people who are no longer with you are happy ones. Maybe even a little merry.