I loved Christmas growing up. Enjoyed learning to bake all the holiday recipes. The surprises and presents. The hope that the season represents.
Then I got married and we had four children. Even when there wasn't a lot of money, we got a big tree. Decorated the house. Made cookies by the double batch for weeks. Bought presents. Made it special. The house was loud, the kids jazzed up. My parents would come with a trunkload of stuff. We usually went to Midnight Mass and followed that with the chaos of Christmas morning. I have lots of pictures, this was taken on Kodachrome on some unknown Christmas in the '90s.
Even as they became adults, some or all of them would come home. I still put a tree, did some part of the traditions, let the holiday find it's balance. Remembered Christmases past.
November 2015 ended all that. As regular readers know, one of my sons took his own life. The others are scattered across the country and there is no desire to get together anymore. The decorations sit in boxes in the attic. The cookie cutters are on a top shelf in a Tupperware container with dust on the lid.
I bring this up to all of you to offer these thoughts.
The first is to tell you that if you are still engaged in full-on Christmas celebrations, love it, appreciate it, revel in it.
Second, remember you know, work with, and interact with people like me. People with losses that have forever altered their Christmases. You may know, you may not, but they have lost a child or a loved one, have someone who is in prison or struggling with addiction, are dealing with chronic illness, and so on. The season brings up memories that they carry like a weight on their best days.
And to finish this. On the shortest days of the year, in the darkness at the beginning of winter, we light the lights, gather together, share a festive meal, and for those who believe, we celebrate a new birth of hope in the world.