December 24, 1998
1998: Christmas Remembered
|The feelings we share at this time of the year are perhaps different from those we enjoyed as children. I remember Christmas seasons in the Mississippi Delta, with the Delta Band Festival in Greenwood initiating several weeks of visits with family and friends; Christmas music in school and church; helping my parents decorate the tree; and the delicious anticipation of seeing wrapped presents with my name on the tag (and knowing there would be even more, unwrapped, on Christmas morning).
The Delta winter scene is fixed in my memory. We drove along Highway 7 from Greenwood to Belzoni, where we would enjoy visiting all my cousins. The wind blowing out of the steel-gray cloudy skies whistled through the leftover cotton stubble and bare trunks of the hardwood trees lining the Yazoo River brakes. I didn't feel the cold as I squirmed in the back seat of my father's old Chevrolet; I knew the trunk was filled with those presents and we would all soon see what our "treats" would be.
The first year that something changed about this Christmas ritual was my tenth year. It was a sad time. My grandmother, eighty-six years old, had broken her hip. In those days there was no hip replacement surgery. She was hospitalized and kept comfortable as possible, but she died just about a week before Christmas. I had been close to my grandmother and had never experienced loss of a loved one before.
None of us felt much Christmas spirit, and indeed there were fewer presents under the tree that year. I hardly noticed. I spent a lot of time with my mother, both of us in tears.
My father was the gentlest man I ever knew. Although he lacked a great deal of formal education, he was nevertheless a very wise man. He loved my mother and me unreservedly.
"Little One," he assured me, using the pet name he continued to call me all his life, "Your grandmother loves you so much. She still does, even if she can't tell you so."
He went on to talk about Christmas presents and explained that, while we enjoy the gifts themselves, even more important is the love that underlies the giving of the gifts. Our love for one another is a reflection of God's great love as manifest in the gift of His son, entering our world and showing us the way to perfect love.
Love never dies. I remembered my father's words eleven years later, in 1967, when I said final earthly good-byes to him also; and in 1979, when my mother joined him and my grandmother. I know their love even now, and take great comfort in memories of our love in good times and bad.
And times can get bad. Life is very complex, and we learn as we grow that not all problems have simple solutions. Sometimes life's events cause us to be estranged from those persons we love the most. My life has turned out quite unlike my early expectations. Although I spent years of effort in self-analysis and attempts to avoid this estrangement, it was not to be. I live far away from many of you and don't know if or when we will see one another.
The loss of contact can be construed as a loss of love, but if we allow ourselves to look past the immediacy of separation, we can realize that love still endures. In my life I believe love is the only enduring quality. All else is temporary. I wish to make love the guiding force in my life.
Only in recent years have I learned to love this way, and I think it is because I can now accept and love this person Becky Allison. For me this love is possible because I experience the love of God as manifested in Christ, eternally present and loving me, loving through me. However you experience it, love can transform your world.
I wish to share with you this spirit of love and my prayer that you will experience love and peace in your life, this season of love and always. You are in my heart even though we are not present together.
May God's greatest blessings be with you.