Tag Archives: Anticipation

I Remember Christmas

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I remember untainted holidays, when Christmas was pure, giddy anticipation, music, decorations and joy. That was before I realized that “baby Jesus” and “Jesus-on-the-cross” were the same guy…and before loss had touched my own life.

I was eight or nine years old when I put all the stories together. I realized then, that the sad-faced man with the beard and long hair (who never seemed to laugh, though he was always with his friends, and who spent so much time lecturing them, I thought he was lucky to have friends at all) was the same hero who wore the thorny crown and bravely endured all the other tortures until he died on the cross.

I was very familiar with the look of horrible anguish on his face, the puncture in his side, his tortured countenance. We wore those images around our necks; variations hung in our classrooms, church and home. When I finally deduced that those stories were about the same person, and the little baby at Christmas was the same person, too, I asked a child’s version of the question,

Why are we so happy about his birth, when we know how sadly this story ends?

The answer, of course, was that it was his choice to die for our sins, that if he hadn’t been born that wouldn’t have happened, that he saved us all from suffering…and remember Easter, so everything turned out, after all.

I was not keen on the idea that I would have – without his grisly death – been paying for sins I didn’t commit (that was not fair!) or that a good father would make his own son go through all of that to make up for things he didn’t even do. I didn’t see “sitting at the right hand of the father,” (the same father that let him be killed?) for eternity (boring!), while leaving all of his friends behind, a truly happy ending.

I was taught, though, to accept the answers given. One question was the sign of a thoughtful child, a second was a bit cheeky, and a third was downright insubordinate. So, at Christmastime, I focused on only the baby-person, and didn’t think ahead (and hoped he didn’t know, either!) to the way it all worked out. At about that same time, I was learning to reconcile – in my own life – the joy of Christmas, in spite of loss.

My Grandpa Ted – who had lived next door – died when I was six years old; Grandma Thelma died when I was ten. When I was twelve, the flame from a candle caused Grandpa Ted’s old roll-top desk to catch fire in our back room on Christmas Eve, and it had to be dragged out into the snow. My baby sister, Darla, died in the spring of that same year. Somehow, we always still had Christmas, and we still found reason to celebrate.

Over the years, the list of heartache continues to accumulate. Death, disaster, divorce, and detachment from those we’d once held close…the holiday could be ruined, if we allowed it. We don’t, though. Christmas is changed, through every loss. It’s celebration becomes more poignant, remembering the people no longer here, and the sweet memories, long past. In many ways, it becomes more precious and dear, savoring the memories we are making, and knowing that nothing is forever.

Celebrate, no matter what the future holds. Maybe that’s the best message behind the Christmas story.

Waiting

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Waiting.

It seems I’ve been doing that a lot these last few days.

Waiting for the road to be plowed.

Waiting to hear if my meeting would be cancelled.

Waiting for the cold weather to ease up.

Waiting for bread to rise.

Waiting for more information.

Waiting.

That’s too short a word to describe the act of it.

The “ting” on the end gives it a lilt it doesn’t deserve.

It should be replaced by one of those long, impossible-to-spell, difficult-to-pronounce words that seem to go on and on and on.

Like “onomatopoeia”, maybe.

In it’s purest and best form, waiting is anticipation: waiting for Santa Claus; waiting for the bell to ring; waiting for the announcement.

Usually, though, even when the wait is for something wonderful, the “waiting for…” takes the joy right out of the phrase. Compare:

“The baby has arrived!”

“…Waiting for the baby to arrive.”

Too often, the wait sounds like a state of Limbo, where everything is on hold until the much desired occurrence comes about:

Waiting for my ship to come in…”

Waiting for the right man/a good job/a better deal…”

“Still waiting for that apology/a raise/the respect I deserve…”

Sometimes it sounds downright fatalistic:

“Just waiting for this day/week/year to be over!”

So what happens then? We start on another long day that we can’t wait to be finished with, in our long string of days that make up our lives as we wait – inevitably – for our lives to be over.

Waiting for death.

There has to be more to life than that!

When my friend, Russell, knew that he was dying, he took his adult children to help him stock up on liquid refreshments, as, “folks will be stopping by.” He took his family on a ferry boat ride. He got up to see the sunrise and share coffee every morning.

When my Mom knew that she was dying, she decided she was going to live her days in the comfort of cozy pajamas, read just the books that would lift her spirits and eat only what tasted best to her. She welcomed family and friends around her, reconnected, reminisced and shared memories. She made note of the weather and her view of the lake (“the best view!”) every single day.

These people, with numbered days, were not waiting for death…but living.

This has been my intent: to live with purpose and direction; to pay attention and appreciate each day; to live in the moment.

Sometimes, though, it seems I still find myself waiting.