Sunday, November 27, 2016
Holiday Season With a Melancholy Twinge
Despite the holiday cheer spread amply among family, friends and neighbors, I sometimes am reminded that not all is one hundred percent jollity. This time of year can bring a painful reminder of those no longer with us, and I always want to be sensitive to that, when I connect with certain friends.
In the midst of all the festive holiday greetings on our Facebook accounts, my husband ran across a sad note that an acquaintance of ours had "suddenly" passed away on Thanksgiving day. That served as this year's reminder that while we are collectively full of the season's good cheer, individually some of us are just not equipped to keep up this holiday pace.
November has its low spots for me, too. Perhaps news of our friend's passing on Thanksgiving day prompted me to remember. Almost to the day, four years ago, I lost a family member unexpectedly; if you've been with us here at A Family Tapestry for the last few years, perhaps you remember my mentioning that. And that wasn't the first of the November losses. This same relative's mother claimed that same month for her own exit—and how eerie it was in her absence, the following Christmas, to open presents tagged in her own handwriting and wrapped for us meticulously, long before anyone else had even turned their thoughts to Christmas shopping.
Today, there will be an empty spot at our church where our friend, now no longer with us, used to sit. I imagine the holiday didn't turn out quite the way his family had expected. I'm also quite sure next year's celebration will not be so easy, either, burdened with memories such as this.
Of course, memories are what we capitalize upon, as genealogists—but those are memories scrubbed of that painful aspect of too-nearness for comfort. Before we can get to the point of welcoming the sharing of those stories, there needs to be that circumspect deference until the comfort of remembering replaces the pain of recalling those who are now gone. Even years later, those feelings can sneak up on us, inserting that bittersweet note into the midst of the celebrations.
If you have just been through a Thanksgiving with that uneasy mix of memories, my thoughts are with you. Of course, I send wishes that those memories will gradually elide into a fuller sense of remembering your loved one for whom he or she was, sans the struggle of pain, and you can safely return to sharing that loved one's story with others.
Above: Snapshot of Marilyn Sowle and Earle Bean, shortly after their wedding in California in the early 1950s; from the family's private collection.