Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Many people are uncomfortable with cemeteries, and do their best to avoid them.

I am the other type of person. I find cemeteries fascinating. The sense of history and the connectedness I feel with those who have lived before me draws me to wander along the quiet lanes pausing to read the names and contemplate what stories lie buried beneath the headstones.

Today, just like many other days, I drove through Lakeview Cemetery on my way home from downtown; not as a short-cut mind you, rather I took the long, scenic route, past Wade Chapel and along the narrow trail that leads to the bottom of the dam, then back up the hill to President Garfield's tomb.

I expected the cemetery to be dismal and dreary on this cold, wet, winter afternoon. But instead, I was struck by sight of red ribbon and holiday greenery adorning grave after grave.

Each wreath, poinsettia, tiny Christmas tree, or plastic Santa, represented a relationship that continued to be cherished, even after death.

During the first few weeks of December, I listened to several of my younger colleagues complain about the dreaded, obligatory, family gatherings.

Demanding fathers, intrusive mothers, kooky aunts, and annoying siblings. The stress of interacting with all of these relatives in such close quarters was said to be the sole explanation for the popularity of eggnog.

I used to feel the same way, until the first Christmas without my mom. Suddenly there was a hole in our family. Christmas would never be the same again.

Dad still puts up a tree, and my brothers and sister and I still gather together for a holiday meal and exchange gifts. But even after twelve years, the memory of my mother's laughter, her goofy little songs and dances, and the thoughtful way she took the time to make sure everybody felt special, still makes my heart ache from missing her.

My trip through Lakeview Cemetery today put me in touch with the ghosts of my Christmas past, and gently reminded me to cherish my family and loved ones who are here celebrating the holidays today, no matter how frustrating they might be.

Make the most of the time you can spend together.
Make good memories, because one day the memories will be all you have left.

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