In the midst of the holiday season, we remember loved ones who will not be with us to open gifts, or to sit at the table and share in laughter and holiday meals because something has physically separated them from us. That something could be death or distance or sickness. It does not matter what the something is; the fact is that they are not here with us. I have found a way to think of these people. A way that eases the pain for me, and I beseech all of you who are missing someone you love this holiday season to give this a try. Try to think about your loved one in the way that I have been doing since early autumn of this year when I first had this thought. It is a simple message to understand, and if you really think about it and try to live it, I believe you can find much comfort.
When trying to put into words how I felt after a year had passed since my father’s death, I found myself surprisingly inspired by a well-known story: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. In October at my home my family celebrated the life of my father by having an open house in remembrance of him. The sun was shining, the sky clear blue, and as I looked around my house filled with his friends and family, I had an interesting thought that made me stop and think. “These people are having fun, having a great time with each other and happy to be here because of one man. My father. Shouldn’t they be upset that a man who meant so much to all of them is gone? Where are the tears? Where is the sadness? The question was easily answered. There was no sadness to be found that day! The people were not sad, the people were glad! Even though each of us had been stripped of his tangible presence, his spirit was as strong as ever. People had gathered from near and far to keep him alive in their hearts. I thought how great it would be if everyone could feel what I felt at that moment. If we could all remember those people no longer with us, or temporarily separated from us for the holidays with a lesson from a movie that to me embodies a meaning not only of the season, but also of life:
“But this sound wasn’t sad. Why…this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came! Somehow or other…it came just the same.”
“How could it be so? It came without ribbons! … it came without tags!…it came without packages, boxes, or bags!” “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more!
– How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss
And so you have it. Can we think of the people we are missing as still with us but just not seen? If we truly can do this, then nothing, not even the finality of death, can take them away from us. Nothing can silence our singing.
This is how I want to remember people I miss. This is how I want to live my life. Sure, the material things have been taken away and I can no longer touch the man in the faded denim jeans, gray sweatshirt, and white socks. I can not see his contagious smile and get a much-needed hug. His voice is gone, and I can’t hear his booming and infectious laughter. What remains here with me is the one thing nobody and nothing can take away. It is what I can feel. It is his spirit. He may not sit in a chair in my dining room, but he is the flame on the candle that I burn for him. He sits atop my holiday table. For these reasons, I will keep singing.
I hope you do the same.