Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays
I once heard it said that Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. The difficulty comes when you attempt to explain that sentiment to a squealing five year old, as they stand in front of a larger than life Christmas tree blanketed with twinkling lights and surrounded by shiny, wrapped boxes. Calming the giggly, anxious child standing on the table top during the Jewish Festival of lights is less than easy. Opening our hearts to memories that cause us pain often mimics a parent trying to wrangle his toddler during any holiday event where gifts and too much sugar are involved. It’s messy, difficult, and there will be many tears.
The mere definition of the word memories is listed as “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.” Our brains can remember as far back as young childhood age. We can pick out a certain conversation we had with a grandparent. Many times, a scent triggers a memory from years past that we had forgotten until that very moment of inhalation. Sometimes it is only a sound that takes us back to a time of togetherness with a loved one. Remembering our loved ones can be intensified during the holidays. Our senses are heightened with spectacular lights, syncopated carols that make you sing along, and scents of peppermint and cinnamon flowing from grandmother’s kitchen. The holidays are full of nostalgia and it doesn’t require much effort to recall previous experiences from last year or from decades ago.
What do we do with these memories when they cause us pain? How can we turn that pain into something good? Remembering our loved ones in a positive manner is all about sharing their legacy. Make a shadow box of some of their smallest belongings. Share a humorous story about grandpa with a younger family member. Take unwrapped gifts to a children’s hospital in memory of mom. Watch one of dad’s favorite movies and make his favorite dessert. The point is that even when remembering a loved one comes out in the form of tears, we have the ability to control the path they follow. We can turn that pain into something that helps others. We can use our pain for good to make someone else smile. So, through the holidays, as you wrangle young children, bake familiar cakes and pies, and tell stories of old…just for a second, you won’t be sad, you won’t feel pain. You will live in that moment and remember all of the goodness that your loved ones instilled in you. You will take a deep breath, smile and open your heart to the legacy that was left within you.
May you have a joyous holiday season with those you hold dear and may you find peace with the memories of yesteryear. Happy Holidays!