Christmas Blessings

I love Christmas as much as the next person, but by this time every year I’m weary of the commercialism, the endless TV ads urging us to buy, buy, buy–the end of year car sale events in which BMW and Mercedes Benz models are on sale. I love the ones showing a shiny new car adorned with  a gigantic ribbon, sitting in the recipient’s driveway. Yeah, that’s gonna happen at my house.

Dean preparing for a dive.

The things that mean the most to me this time of year can’t be found in stores. Instead, the blessings I hold most dear are phone calls from far-flung relatives, Christmas cards from long-lost colleagues, candlelight services at church, the sound of children’s voices singing carols, made achingly sweet this year in the wake of the atrocity in Connecticut last week.

Last April, I lost a brother. Dean was closest to me in age, and until our little brother came along the year I turned six–my closest friend and playmate. As adults we kept in touch only sporadically; I moved back and forth across the country several times and saw him only when I came home to our parents’ for holidays. When we learned, late last February, that he had terminal cancer, we spoke a few more times. I traveled to his home, hoping for one last good conversation, a chance to reminisce and say goodbye, but when I arrived he was delirious and never knew I was there. This Christmas, I’ve been remembering those lovely Christmases when we were children, wide awake for hours on Christmas Eve, listening for Santa’s arrival, certain that THIS year we would stay awake long enough to see him.

We grew up in a small town with few stores. The arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog every fall was a huge event at our house. Dean and I took turns paging through the fat catalog, turning down the corners of the pages showing our most hoped-for gifts.  One year, he wanted a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy. He spent hours gazing at that catalog page. Somehow, in the run-up to Christmas, the page got torn, the photo of Charlie ripped in two. Dean was heartbroken, certain that because the picture had been damaged, he wouldn’t find Charlie under the tree that year. Mom and Dad had to do some fast talking to convince him Santa still would be able to figure out what he wanted.

Dean marched to the beat of a different drummer. He had strong opinions on everything and he had the courage of his convictions. He once quit a job because he hated the music piped in to the workplace. He wore his hair longer than  my parents liked. He was passionate about his family, his music, and computers. He loved being on the water and was an avid scuba diver. He faced death with grace and courage and without an ounce of self pity. In that, he became my hero. This year, I’m saying special prayers for him in Heaven. I’ll always regret that time and distance kept us apart for too long. If there is someone in your life with whom you’ve lost touch–a sibling, a parent, a friend,  I hope you’ll take a moment this Christmas season to reconnect. Tomorrow you might not get the chance.

From my house and heart to yours, have a blessed Christmas.