December 22, 2013

Bells Instead of Tears & the #Marines #SalvationArmy

Like in many other homes Christmas at our house has moments of sadness entwined with those of joy. This year I chose to embrace my loss and turn it into a celebration with a new tradition.
     The holidays are rough when you have lost loved ones.  Childhood memories become bittersweet. I think as we get older and start to lose more of our aged family members it is easy to become overwhelmed with grief and feelings of loss.  We lost my Dad just a few days before Christmas which seems to make it a bit harder. I'll admit that for a couple years after 2002 I am not sure how I even got through Christmas. This year disconnecting was not an option in so many ways.
Last week I shared how stressed we were waiting to find out if my son was not only going to be approved for full military duty but if he would be shipped out before Christmas.  The news was just what he wanted. He was completely cleared medically for boot camp AND his ship date is April 14th.  He is slated to fill in for anyone who drops out last minute and the earliest that would be is January 7th.  Not only will he be home for Christmas and his birthday but as far as he is concerned most importantly the BCS Championship  FEAR THE SPEAR!!
The reality is that this year may be one of the last that we are all home for Christmas.  It is time for embracing the old traditions as well as starting something new. I was surprised to find that it was actually 2 years ago when I started thinking about doing something to honor my Dad at Christmas when I wrote Transforming Mourning Into Memorializing yikes.  This year I am proud to say I was able to start what I hope will become an Annual Day of Service.  My Dad, and his family, were members of The Salvation Army.  What better way to honor him and his heritage than to spend the day serving this great charity.  Early in the holiday season I called our the local Salvation Army and arranged for my family to be Bell Ringers on December 21, the day my Dad passed.  
I'll admit that I was a bit worried I'd be more overwhelmed than usual with memories of my Dad but actually the opposite happened.  My Dad loved talking to strangers.  Whether it was people waiting in line at the cashier or the toll takers on a highway he said Hello to everyone.  I realized yesterday that not only do I share in that but my daughter does as well.  It was touching to see her engaging people, especially the 80yr old Army Veteran who was sharing stories with her for at least 15 minutes.  
It wound up that only Em was available yesterday, the boys were both working and Meg was singing down in Disney, so just the two of us were Kettle Ringers for 4 hours.  Wouldn't you know the sun was shining and it was actually hot enough for me to have gotten a sunburn! I have no idea how much money we collected, though I'm sure it was over $100.  I do know I've never said Merry Christmas more often in such a short period.  It was so much fun watching little children get excited at putting money in the kettle.  I was entertained by people avoiding making eye contact, so of course I was extra jolly in wishing them Merry Christmas.  We saw quite the fashion parade of Christmas sweaters both ugly and cute.  Only in Florida do you see clothing covered with Flamingos in Santa hats.  All of this made me think of my Dad who enjoyed sitting at the mall people watching, he certainly would have been entertained Saturday.
While I still missed my Dad terribly yesterday and will these next few days I also had a new sense of peace that I haven't felt before.  I have no idea what 2014 will bring but I do know that on December 21st I will be wearing a red apron, standing next to a kettle, ringing a bell, wishing everyone that goes by Merry Christmas and smiling while I think of my Dad.
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