James A Rutherford Funeral Home




So - 'tis the season once again. For many who observe Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Rohatsu, the Solstice, Mawlid el-Nabi, or any other usually sacred tradition, the recognition of the tradition isn't a terribly daunting task. The experience is something else. Some folks over the years, me included, have at times found themselves in manoeuvres around issues concerning certain holidays, like Christmas – stemming from its “commercialism" to lamenting that it's not what it used to be like when we were kids. And worse, for some, it is a bitter reminder of their loneliness or loss. 

I've realized, from personal experience, that fighting the changes in my life that have altered this holiday; taken me away from “how it used to be" and trying to get that back, certainly does not make it more enjoyable. Indeed, less so. Christmas, like anything else in life will inevitably change, if only for the fact that we are getting older and the wonder and magic of it all is now in need of our own creation, rather than simply allowing it to wash over us as we did when we were children. For myself, as a boy, it was as magical as can be, illuminated and sparkling, even in the green and red streetlights at the intersections of the city. 

As a funeral director, and after a few failed attempts of my own to hold onto the past, I know that it feels particularly acute when someone dies around such a festive time of year. Similarly, as folks are not desirous about having a funeral service on a family members birthday if they can help it, or a funeral service near the time of a wedding – a death around Christmas time seems to enlarge the wound of the loss. 

I remember quite poignantly a few of the Christmas's I've experienced after my father and mother died, how very different they felt. And recently, that first Christmas after my brother and sister-in-law, who I love dearly, moved to BC. And the one after my divorce. It was just more vacant, more reflective. For those who celebrate the time, it can be sharp, simply because the loss is in direct juxtaposition to a time of gathering, a time of joy and goodwill, friends and family. 

To help soothe the wound of the loss on any blessed Christmas eve or morn, there are things that can draw those loved and lost closer. I have in past years filled a special decorative wooden box with sand or rice, and for each guest, friend, or family member who I find in my company – they may take a thin tapered candle, stick it into the box and light it in memory of someone they personally love and miss. That way the spirit comes alive in the room at a time when their physical body is missed. The box of candles is set in a place of honour. The candles are allowed to burn down. The traditions of the evening or day carry on. 

Perhaps a piece of music that was traditionally played around the holiday can bring a loved one into the room. For my father's spirit, that would be “Christmas Time Is Here" by Vince Guaraldi or selections by George Shearing. Perhaps an empty chair, lovingly decorated and placed in a corner of the room or at the table. For my mother's spirit it would be the use of the traditional forget-me-not tea pot that was handed down through generations. Or a Christmas Eve journal, preserved, written in only once each year. 

Whatever is chosen, there is no benefit whatever to putting aside thoughts or traditions that remind one of so-called “better" days or even trying to hold onto them as they were. Instead, embrace them in all their blessed melancholy and create a little something new, to call those you love back into your space. It's all healing. Recognize what you have been given through Christmases past and wherever possible, spread their warm dressings to those around you. And yes – allow whatever joy and whatever melancholy of loss the space to breathe equally. Let both fill the room. Let them embrace in the magic and mystery of the season. The are gifts that are best experienced together. 



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