Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Day the Music Died - How the Meaning of Christmas Changed for Me

People often ask me why I do not get excited over Christmas.  Well, that is because the day has come to have a very different meaning for me.  Twelve years ago on Christmas Day, I saw my sister for the last time.  She had been diagnosed with cancer a few days prior and was told that it was terminal.  That even though she had been sick for years, the doctors had somehow missed it and that by the time they did discover it that it was too spread to do anything about it.

At the time, I was still a very young man and did not really understand all of this.  I was just finished my master's degree, had a job that someone my age and experience level should not have had and was full of arrogance about my abilities and place in the world.  I was smart but not wise.  l.  As Heather and I arrived at my sister's house for Christmas we went upstairs to my sister's bedroom to say hi and I automatically learned that life was very different for her.

Bed ridden, she tried hard to put on a happy face that day through the pain and knowledge that she would soon be leaving this world.  She tried to be her gregarious and sarcastic self yet also, knowing what I know now but not understanding at the time, was also trying to say good-bye.  I did not see it at the time.  I was full of life and youth combined with the arrogance that goes with it.  Nothing could hurt my me or my loved ones.  I was still in denial.  I was convinced that everything would be okay.  That a then two and a half year old Robyn would grow up to know a loving mother; that I would have my sister for years to come to banter with; that my parents would not have to live with the pain of losing a child. 

After that day Heather and I went home and I even went to work the next day.  On New Years Eve Day my sister went back into the hospital.  We were going to drive back to see her the next day only - It was 2:37 AM when the phone rang...

This brings me back to Christmas.  What for some is a celebration of life and birth - is no longer that for me.  Over the years I could have gone back to that sense but with the rampant commercialization of the holiday, I have become more disenfranchised as opposed to less.  I strive to spend time with my family year round.  I give gifts when I see something that is special so that they have meaning.  I celebrate life because I realize how fragile it is - not because of a social convention.  As a result of losing my sister, I have learned that these are the important lessons in life and I feel like that message is missing in the modern celebration of the holiday.  It is not that I do not like Christmas but rather I dislike the bastardization of it.  It is the antithesis of what is truly important in life.  Stuff means little next to the life of a loved one.

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