Bittersweet Christmas

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As my Dad always says, “Well that’s it all by with for another year.”

Looking at the mountain of gifts our two got from Santa, friends and family I think we might get some peace and quiet in the next few days as they work their way through the toys, games, books and dressing up clothes they got. They have been very lucky and, as usual, spoilt rotten by all the goodies they have received – and this time next year there will be another body to celebrate with. But it’s the missing ones that have struck a chord this year for me.

Sadly we lost a family member yesterday and while they lived to a ripe old age, the suddenness with which it happened has been a bit of a shock. Christmas is always haunted by the “Ghosts of Christmas past” but this year was a more reflective one than I had been expecting. While my great-uncle was someone I associated more with New Year, as that’s usually when we would see him at my Granny’s House, it reinforced all the empty chairs that sit around everyone’s tables on this day.

It’s not a maudlin thing, more a thought-provoking one. All those memories of childhood Christmases and those we shared them with. The family traditions and visits and faces that are confined to photos hiding in boxes under beds and in cupboards. Each one of those people was part of an eternal jigsaw that has no edges, instead there is always room to add a new piece as we will do next year. While we may well lose others before then it will be an organic picture that will change and grow as each of the family members makes their own puzzle up. Jake and Jenna have both been so lucky to experience Christmas with such a large family circle, but as I know only to well – the larger the circle, the more we have to lose.

Many friends will have sat down today with someone missing from their lives and tables. Places will have been set accidentally as automatic pilot miscounted the number round the table and we all look to that empty seat and wish for one last meal with them – a chance to tell them everything we ever wanted to. To all my friends and family who had someone missing I raise a glass to you and yours, and at the same time I raise a glass to Willie Grassick; may you rest in peace sir.

JD

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