Friday, December 21, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Past


The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Without even closing my eyes, I can see him.  Coming up my walk on a bitterly cold night in late December - a tweed cap on his head, a huge grin on his face and an emerald green box in his hand.  My Father.  So excited to show me the new watch he’d bought my Mother for Christmas that he completely ignored the extravagant light display The Songwriter had just created on the giant fir tree by the front door.  He returns to me every year.  In his favourite red sweater he sits at my table once again.  I see him sneaking fudge, shaking his presents, just as clear as day.

  My father loved Christmas and, happily, he passed that love on to me, along with his optimistic spirit, his fear of snakes and his crooked nose.  Always close by my side most days of the year, his spirit looms large during the festive season.  I see him as he was when I was little, struggling to put up the tree I’d once again wheedled him into purchasing even though he knew full well it was too tall for our room.  There he is, trying to stifle a yawn as I tear through Santa’s generous array of gifts when I’ve awakened him before dawn on Christmas morning.  And I see him fighting to appear strong and business-as-usual the December he died, now five years past.  Yes, all these ghosts of my father are present in my life, especially during this most evocative of seasons, and I have learned to welcome them all.

Understandably, it is an English tradition to tell ghost stories at Christmas.  Perhaps it is the holiness of these days that causes the veil to occasionally blow back in the icy wind, revealing those from times past in a clearer, almost tangible, light.  As we carefully unwrap treasured ornaments and baubles from years long ago, we hear their voices on the stair.  We bring out a family recipe and glimpse them laughing in the corners, steaming mugs of mulled wine in their hands.  Even though she’s been gone for years, we still see the Aunt who used to call out, “Christmas Gift”, when she came through the door with her arms full of presents.  We see the taciturn Uncle who always sat through the festivities with nary a comment nor reaction save a slight, bemused smile.  We remember the year the Christmas tree fell.  The one when Mother dropped all the ornaments, shattering each and every trinket and geegaw to smithereens.  We recall the festive Christmas lunch with a friend who never looked handsomer than he did on that day and we still marvel that we lost him only one short year later.  But there he is once again, sitting at our fireside, the glow of the Christmas lights reflected in his laughing eyes.  

 One cannot live long without sorrow.  And though the ghosts at my table this Christmas mostly bring good cheer and happy memory along with them, their presence is frequently tinged with that harsh reality of life.   Forever now, there will be such visitations in Connecticut at Christmas.   Tiny, sweet spirits who shall remain continually innocent and smiling but whose presence will for years bring tears and unbearable grief to those who loved them so.  As I sit by my glowing tree tonight, surrounded by the spirits of my own past, my heart is heavy for those families destined for similar visitations through the rest of their days.  They shall never escape them, nor, I suppose, would they wish to.

  So much in our lives cannot be explained, no matter how hard we might try, and to even attempt to give reason or cause to the obscene tragedy of last Friday is to diminish it in a shameful way.  It is beyond any human comprehension.  Those who have said it is a punishment from God do not know the same God as I and should never, in my opinion, utter another word.  My prayers are all I have to offer tonight and I offer them up in a fervent wish for comfort and peace to the brokenhearted in this season of ultimate hope.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, 
Love leaves a memory no one can steal”.
From a Headstone in Ireland

29 comments:

  1. When I realized yet again yesterday that Christmas is only a week away, I, too, thought of the small chairs which will sit empty this Christmas, of mothers and fathers who died trying to save the innocent, of the mother whose guns played into the hands of her son and her own death.

    I also remember my own ghosts - of the many cookies and fudge my Mom would make; how we would sneak to the freezer to steal some cold, her knowing all the while. How my Dad would stomp around the house and jingle his keys like sleigh bells, "ho, ho, hoing!" till we scrambled out of bed. Good and sad ghosts in all our lives. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  2. Prayers and love and blessings for everyone this Christmas especially those in deep sorrow.
    Love Jeanne

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  3. This was such a beautiful post. Yes, we all have memories. My fear is alzheimers, it steals the last drop of life from one. I lost my Mom to it. Well on a lighter note, Renee and I have lots of laugh's and She has made my Christmas Season full of happines and love.
    God Bless those who are all alone, like I was for the past 9 years.
    Big hug and Merry Christmas.
    yvonne

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  4. So very well put. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words.
    Blessings!

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  5. Well said. May my mother, grandmother and grandfather come to join us as we remember, we celebrate, we feast.

    Blessings to you and yours for the festive season!

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  6. "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

    - Lao Tzu


    Much love and thank you for your beautiful postings. Love Jeanne

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  7. As I go about my Christmas preparations, I, too, think of those empty spaces in the homes of families in Connecticut. My heart feels bruised.

    Christmas visitations cause sadness as well as joy. Time softens but does not diminish them.

    I believe God wept first on that terrible day.



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  8. So often you write what is in my own heart. Thank you.

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  9. upon hearing about last friday i thought there could be no words.
    yet you have chosen them well.
    thank you. i can only imagine if it comforts one like me ~ so far away ~ it must be an even greater comfort to those who may tragically be suffering the real part of that unimaginable terror and loss.
    little precious ghosts indeed.
    love,
    tammy j

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  10. Beautiful post. It is heartbreaking to think of the families who lost a child. I can smile at my Christmas ghosts because fortunately they lived long and happy lives before they left me,but I can't imagine the sorrow these people must go through.
    My thoughts are with them.

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  11. Lovely post. My late mother-in-law always called out "Christmas gift" when she first saw us at Christmas, not a tradition in my family, though we're all southern. Wonder where that came from? She would have been 99 in January and my own mother, 91. Lovely ghosts.

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  12. Yes Pamela, it is at christmas that we always think of our loved ones who are no longer with ut - those memories are always fresh.

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  13. Your thoughts echo what is in our hearts. May the families of all those little beauties be comforted that they are in Heaven, for there is no doubt. I am now thinking of my own ghosts, who, like your dear father, had a twinkle in their eyes.

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  14. I loved this, Pamela. Thank you.

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  15. One again you said beautifully what has been weighing in my heart this week, thinking of all those families.
    Thank you.

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  16. Pamela,
    Thank you for the comfort your words always provide.
    May you and yours have a wonderful holiday.
    Karen

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  17. Thank you, Pam. "They shall never escape them, nor I suppose, would they wish to". Love and sorrow certainly are the closest of companions.
    We'll spend time with my father this Christmas, probably his last; he's really been "gone" from us for awhile now, though. It's a heartbreaking thing to have both the ghost of who he was and this changed father side-by-side.
    Thanks for your thoughtful words.

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  18. Pamela you say so poignantly what many of us hold in our hearts!

    Love and Hugs
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  19. This is such a beautiful, heartfelt post. And you are right, there are no answers...

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  20. Hello Pamela

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    Love leaves a memory no one can steal”.
    From a Headstone in Ireland

    This and your beautiful post say it so perfectly. We have resorted to silence in our house, no tv, no radio we are trying to understand the madness.

    Happy Christmas to all of you and may the New Years bring abundant blessings.

    Helen xx

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  21. I loved, loved, loved my daddy too. We lost him 14 years ago, and sometimes it only seems like yesterday. Christmas time seems to bring my memories of him closer and more vivid. Hugs

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  22. A stunningly beautiful tribute as well as a comforting read. Thank you, Pamela.

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  23. Dear Pamela,Christmas greetings.
    This is one of your loveliest and most moving essays ever--and the bar you set is hight indeed.

    Thank you, I loved this!

    ox

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  24. Oh my.....this POST was PERFECT in every way.

    xo

    Jo

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  25. A beautiful post. My father died the same december as yours... so I've been reading you for five years now? Oh, my God.I remember that post very well...
    Difficult times in the US; difficult (but different) times in Spain. Your posts are a joy.

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  26. Pamela,

    A beautiful and heartfelt post. I too feel the ghosts of Christmas, each time I bake a batch of cookies I see my grandmother by my side telling me what to add and my grandfather sitting in the living room waiting to try one.

    These are no words for the CT shooting, I have been on my knees more times than I can tell praying for the little souls and their families and perhaps also for some answers. Not that the reasons matter but still...

    Thank you Pamela for your beautiful and comforting words, Merry Christmas!

    Elizabeth

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  27. Yes, those ghosts of Christmases past come to me at times, some years, not so much. The realities are ever present, and yet the possibilities of new Christmas memories blend in to make a lifetime. Thank you for visiting, thank you for your gift of writing to the blog world and beyond, and for your light that I am SURE spreads into the lives of others so that they too can believe that there is a GOD.

    Anita

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  28. What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed. As always Pamela you are a hard act to follow.

    Thank you for another year of intelligent and eloquent comment and a Happy Christmas to you and the Songwriter, Edward and Apple. xxx

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  29. That teapot is awesome, its abstractly designed. Reminds me of the Spanish painter Salvador Dali's painting the persistence of Memory where in a melting clock is noticeable.

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