Over the years—ten previous ones, to be exact—I have written a Christmas Eve fraGEElay* post that reflects on life’s fragilities and how this season is a good time to take care of one another and be mindful of life’s precarious nature.
This year, I want to share a personal reality to help drive this point home.
When I was a kid, a rift in my extended family happened that resulted in my immediate family disconnecting from pretty much everyone else. We kids didn’t really understand or know why, but it happened, and we just had to deal with it. And so we did. For…decades.
My dad died when I was 21 and took his answers with him. My mom—well, that’s a whole other story—but she expected/demanded our loyalty and kept her answers to herself, as well—until she, too, died.
And in the wisdom that sometimes comes with age, my sister and brother and I decided that regardless of what those answers were, we needed to seek reconnection with those we missed out on for so many years.
In our seeking, we have met with family and learned that the origin of the issue was small and petty. And unless there is more to the story that we have yet to learn, this little incident stood—and hurt feelings built up until a wall divided loved ones—and way too many people died with that wall separating us from one another.
My family missed out on decades of relationships and memories with our extended family over a stupid spat. In fact, the people who were the ones with the issue have long since died.
The ripple effect of loss is far-reaching and life-changing. Such fragility.
But now we are working to move forward. We can’t make up for lost time, but we are striving to make new memories together.
There is a plaque that hangs in my kitchen that says,
The clock of life is wound but once,
and no man has the power
to tell just when the hands will stop
at late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own,
Live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in “tomorrow,” for
The clock may then be still.
In November, we were fortunate to reconnect with our aunt and several cousins. It was so much fun, and we all were genuinely delighted to spend time together. None of us could even understand why we had fallen away from each other. We felt the love and warmth and knew it was the beginning of a new chapter.
We made plans for another gathering to spend more time with my aunt. To just be with her and listen to her stories. She was the last person from my parents’ generation who could still share memories with us, and I yearned to hear the stories of long ago.
A few days before our get together, my cousin reached out to postpone because a couple people in the family were sick, and she didn’t want her mom to get sick, too.
Eight days after we were supposed to get together, my aunt was gone.
People. Life is fragile.
Yesterday—on a day with ridiculously frigid temps and dangerous winds, not to mention the day before Christmas Eve—was my aunt’s visitation. The place was filled. This was a testament to who she was, as well as the family she raised. While a few minutes outside could result in frostbite, a few minutes inside, and you could feel the warmth and love.
The outpouring of that love was beautiful—but also a stark reminder of what my sister, brother, and I missed out on. Many people shared stories about sitting at my aunt’s table—of her feeding them, sharing stories and laughter…
Had it not been for choices made by people long ago to hang onto slights rather than talk them through, we would have been at that table, too.
And so, my friends, as you gather with family this Christmas and holiday season, remember that life is indeed fraGEElay, but conflicts—big or small—do not have to result in long-lasting brokenness.
If you are dealing with an issue where hurt feelings exist, please consider planting your feet in vulnerability and reaching out. While it does risk more hurt, it also offers the hope of fresh air, warm hearts, and a seat at the table that will leave you full of both delicious food—and love.
I wish you a peaceful, safe, and love-filled Christmas and New Year. Happy Holidays to all—and may we seek and find a way of being better to one another…in our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world.
*If you are unfamiliar with this reference, it comes from the beloved movie “A Christmas Story.” I can no longer see the word “fragile” and pronounce it in any way other than fraGEElay. That must be Italian.