Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Enjoy the 'Now' While It's Still Here

Yesterday afternoon, Madelene and I went to go to the farm to pick out our Christmas tree. Y'all know me better than to think that I chopped it down myself. (I have no idea why I got all southern on y'all.) It was really nice though, because we walked through the rows of firs, wreaths and homemade ornaments that were so beautiful. There were a ton of assorted Christmassy lanterns hanging up above in various colors that lit up the long outdoor aisles. At the end of the row, I noticed a very large wreath that had homemade red roses made out of nylon or some sort of similar material. It also included large metal rods that were meant to be placed into the ground of someone's graveside. In the middle of the wreath it said, "DAD". I instantly got a lump in my throat and my eyes started to well up with tears. When Madelene finally caught up with me, she looked down and then looked up at me.

"Get it, Deb..."

I couldn't speak. If I were to try, I'd probably burst out into tears balling in the middle of the farm. Something came over me that I haven't felt in a long time -- I can't even explain it. I was doing "okay" -- I wasn't this upset lately. At least, I didn't think I was. As the Christmas carols blared out of the small speakers they had up above, I just kept getting flashbacks of my father's preparations for Christmas. I soon snapped out of it and then realized that Dad's "resting area" for his ashes was in the strangest area to which he requested -- make that to which he "demanded".  I used to make fun of him asking, "Why there? I don't get it? Why there?" He would laugh at me and tell me to "fuggedaboudit". It was a place he went just to sit and think, have his cigarette and daydream a while. He and my mother would sit there together talking in that very spot. I may not know exactly why he wanted his ashes placed there, but to him it meant everything. So be it.

"No, too creepy, "I said, still staring at the wreath. "This belongs on an actual plot or grave."

I could actually hear him laughing at me saying, "Oh God! How crazy dis' kid is!" He would always take off his glasses to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes when I would mess with him.

"The nut doesn't fall too far from the tree, Dad..."

Madelene's plaque.
We started walking back toward where the Christmas trees were. Something grabbed my attention to look under this wooden divider of the aisle. Below it, sat a homemade stone bench that sat low to the ground. On the top of it read a poem -- the same poem that Madelene used to place onto her father's graveside. It was if both our dads were with us at that very moment. They truly wanted us to be happy during this time. The message I got was, "ENJOY Christmas! Don't mourn or be depressed! Listen to Christmas carols, be together, love each other and stop holding off Christmas just because you miss us!" Isn't that what we do though? We sort of hold off the holidays the best we can because we don't want to go through another Christmas without them. We don't want to see that empty chair at the table. We want to hold onto everything we had, and with that, we sometimes forget to hold onto everything and everyone we have right now, at this very moment. We're so busy remembering the past that we seem to forget to enjoy 'the now' -- the people who are still with us and the memories we have yet to create.

When we left the farm, we went out for a little bite to eat and headed home. Mom joined us as we put up the tree and tried our best to decorate it. (Needs a little more work but it's quite festive enough!) Mom always hated Christmas -- not really hated it -- but more like hated the music, the decorations and other "side trimmings" of the holidays. Whenever she hears Christmas music, she shutters and says, "Turn that off!" She didn't have very fond memories of Christmas growing up, so she sort of lugged that into her adulthood, but made sure her children's holidays were the happiest times they ever had. Mom joined us to decorate the tree last night and to listen to Christmas carols without complaining for the very first time. We placed Dad's memorial ornament up that my sister gave to the family. It has his name in the middle with the dates of his life, along with all of our names around it. Kind of a reminder that Dad's still around. Afterwards, we all sat by the fire talking about everything while staring at the tree without any bad memories. We were enjoying the moment and in 'the now'.

Holidays can be strange in many ways, especially if someone is going through a breakup or divorce. The traditions held may have been different or the entire "feel" of Christmas spent with whomever was unique. There's a subtle sadness when someone is removed from your life, whether through death or by breakup -- there's this unexplainable void. I truly believe that's why many people hate to hear Christmas music or start to shiver once Christmas commercials start coming on before the turkey is served on Thanksgiving. It can definitely be bittersweet, trying to enjoy the holidays to the best of your ability all the while missing someone, and sometimes, very secretly. It can feel like you're all alone putting on your 'best face' while being in the company of people who truly want to be there with you. In many cases, there are those who try to not make a big stink of the holidays because it actually IS a big stink for them. It's the one holiday they wish they could enjoy with the same people places and things that used to be present in their lives. It's the past they hold onto so tightly while missing out on the true meaning of the holidays: togetherness. Being that I have a close-knit family, we drew even closer once Dad passed. The togetherness made the holidays tolerable, enjoyable, and I want to say even more appreciated since we know that at any given time, someone from our little group can be taken just. like. that.

My clan. 
Treasure all you have right here, right now. Hug the past, but then let it go so you can hug the present.  Love one another and show it by whatever means you can. Gifts are meaningless without heart. I'd rather be with the people I love rather than to receive gifts. This whole Black Friday/Christmas shopping fiasco has gotten so out of hand and so stressful for many families. What if Christmas could be more like Thanksgiving? I am so incredibly thankful to have my family here this year. So, with that, I ask that you pray for my mother. Tomorrow she is going to get a procedure done where they will determine how well the chemo and radiation worked. We're hoping for a good bill of health and that she's cancer free. That would be the best present ever for Christmas! So please, prayers prayers and more prayers! And thank you in advance.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!