Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not your Average Christmas Soirée

Christmas is coming, and my mom's family will gather this Saturday for our yearly feast. Part of me looks forward to seeing everyone and reconnecting with cousins who can't return a MySpace message... but part of me dreads the holiday. Last year, we were all there. Everyone. We talked, shared our lives, and listened to Grandpa make a speech. He spoke of family, and how important family is to us, how much we mean to each other, and the reason we gather and support one another. This year, though, he won't be making any speeches. Grandpa won't be at Christmas. The last twelve months have not been easy as the family has watched him slide into his dementia. On a very good day, he'll recognize his sons and daughters, but most days... most days don't involve much more than eating and sleeping.

Saturday, we will all be there to celebrate Christmas. Except Grandpa. He might even be there physically (if my aunts and uncles have the audacity to move him out of his facility and care for him for a few hours), but his mind and heart won't be joining us.

It's not that there will be one less person--one person in twenty or thirty makes little difference. We won't exchange presents or make any toasts, and there won't be caroling or pageantry. None of that matters to me, especially in the long run. I don't need stacks of pretty boxes under the tree, and I certainly don't care if we sing or dance or play games.

Christmas, for me, for my family, is about being there. Of course, we're there for each other all year long, but this one day is the most important. While so many other families celebrate their holiday with extravagant gifts and pomp and circumstance, too much alcohol, and elaborate prayers, my family will gather in a large living room without enough seating, and we'll celebrate love.

That's right: no gift giving. Probably no Christmas tree. No big sit-down meals. Just a lot of related people sitting in one room together talking, laughing, and being there. Of all that is human, in what better way could we honor the life of Christ than by celebrating love?

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