by Jenn Krebs, N.D.
Nine years ago was the last Christmas I spent with my father. Even though at the time I had no idea that that would be our last Christmas together, I remember that Christmas more vividly than any other holiday spent with my family.
I remember that we celebrated Christmas a day late because my sister and her family were not able to get to Massachusetts until December 26th. I remember how my dad sat at the head of the table and looked so proud and happy to be with his family. I remember the car ride with my dad to the airport to pick up my sister, and I remember our conversation. I remember smiling when my dad picked me up from running a holiday errand because he was blaring Phanton of the Opera from his car CD player. I remember being disappointed when I saw my parents’ fancier and bigger Christmas tree in their new home and looking to make sure that the clothespin ornaments that we had handmade as a family years before were still there. I remember my dad checking CNN every few hours that holiday as it was the year of the devastating tsunami in Indonesia. I remember making gluten-free cornbread stuffing with my mom. I remember sneaking away for an afternoon of shopping downtown with my sister. I remember all of us laughing, and I remember my nephew’s wiggle dance that he did every time he heard the Barenaked Ladies’ version of Jingle Bells. I remember the walk I took with my mom to get firewood. I remember the rock in the woods behind my parents’ house that my nephew pretended was a plane. I remember having no idea it would be the last Christmas we would spend with him.
It is interesting to me that I do not remember what gifts I got or gave that year. I don’t remember if I sent out holiday cards or made Christmas cookies. I am sure I was stressed out over holiday errands, but I don’t remember that stress in the slightest. I don’t remember what we ate, but I remember cooking the stuffing with my mom. I don’t remember the last Christmas gift I bought my dad.
I am reminded this holiday season that as we run our errands, as we shop and bake, and as we party and celebrate, we are at the same time spending precious time with our families. The details of the holiday that we sometimes get caught up in or place a lot of importance on will most likely not be what our friends and family remember.
My dad gave me so much over the years. And yet it is in his death, in his absence and in the grief of his loss, that I continue to find the greatest gift of all … the understanding that time spent together is what matters most, what we remember and what we hold close in our hearts. The time we spend around the kitchen counter or the dinner table, the conversations we have while driving each other around, the time we spend walking and playing and laughing … those are the gifts we take with us.
As I drove to pick my daughter up from nursery school this morning, I turned the volume on my Broadway showtune station way up. I don’t remember it enough and I don’t remember it every day, but I try when I can to honor my dad … by appreciating the moments of life, the intimate conversations, the laughter and play of my children, and the time spent with my family.