As his tall, consuming figure leaned into me, his robes quietly rustled a holy whisper.
“It’s not unusual for Christmas to call those who are ready. Sometimes I think, they wait for family to be near. I think it’s God’s way of bringing loved ones together when they most need each other.”
These private words of comfort from the archbishop of Toronto’s Anglican church at my dad’s funeral have stayed with me. They comforted me when four years later, now almost fifteen years ago, we gathered to be with Mum for Christmas. She died the next day, I think knowing we were all together.
Every Christmas our family is torn between celebration and sorrow, as we miss those no longer with us, some taken far too soon. I’d be telling a lie if I said the journey has been easy; it has not.
But still, my faith in what this time of year means, while tested, has not left me. Nor have the memories that I choose to keep close to me, a comfort when darker ones challenge their presence.
Like when I was six and such a brat, I snuck downstairs on Christmas Eve to see my dad and our cousin struggling to build a doll-sized furniture set for me. Pink with pastel blue polka dots. Riddled with guilt, I never peeked at gifts again.
Or like getting a guitar when I was ten and learning the three basic chords C-F-G before I went to bed that day. Its replacement leans against a wall somewhere down in our basement. Maybe some day I’ll resurrect the chords and re-callous my fingers.
Or like when my brother, sister and I were told to wait each year at the top of the stairs while Mum got the movie camera ready to film our descent. Reels and reels of films came into my possession after she died. After my sister died I had some of them transferred to CDs for my brother and me…a memory gift.
Or like when I decorated the house my first Christmas with Maddie while Colleen played the piano. Maddie’s love for Christmas surpassed mine, I think, and put her right up there with my daughter Katie for joyous spirit of the season. Not a square inch of that family room was left unadorned but best was the grin on her face when we finished.
“I think the job’s done here, Mamma Judes. Now it’s Christmas.”
Colleen politely tucked away any comment about the possibility of tacky.
That was my only Christmas with Maddie. But I feel her presence, hear her voice as I decorate…music sweeter than a choir of angels.
On Christmas day we now relive our childhood through the eyes of our three beautiful grandchildren who remind us that this is the season to celebrate the joy of peace and hope and better times. A season to be grateful.
To you and yours, my dear friends in words, for whatever season you celebrate, may hope rule your days ahead and may the sincere gratitude I have for your connection here be felt today and throughout the new year.