FraGEElay x 11

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.

But.

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.

The FraGEElay Nature of Life: How $2.50 Saved an Entire Town

For my tenth annual iteration of my Christmas Eve(ish) FraGEElay* post, I find my heart dwelling on another Christmas classic: It’s a Wonderful Life. It is my favorite movie, and I have seen it over 100 times. But my viewing of it the other night brought me a new understanding and insight.

The film (for those living in a sad “I haven’t watched IAWL” world) is about George Bailey being shown the impact he has had on his hometown, Bedford Falls, to prove to him in his darkest hour that his town—and the world—need him. But what I realized this last viewing is that the same could be said about the character of Mrs. Davis. Who is Mrs. Davis, you ask? Well, besides growing up to become Grandma Walton, she is the young woman who asks for $17.50 to tide her over until the bank re-opens (during the scene of the bank run of the Great Depression).

Others in the scene ask for $20 (not to mention $242, Tom), and if Mrs. Davis had done the same, there would have been no “mama dollar and papa dollar” left for George to hold in his hands until the final second of the business day. Instead, they would have been 50¢ short and had to close early, which—according to Mr. Potter—meant that they would never reopen. (Yes, I know this calculation doesn’t account for the possibility of others adjusting what they asked for—perhaps the last person would have seen they were going to run out of money and asked accordingly—but the movie is rife with these kinds of “ifs,” so let’s just go with it.)

The defaulting of the Building and Loan would have meant that Potter would own all of Bedford Falls—and people would no longer have the option to borrow money from a company that has a heart and knows and cares for people. They would only be dealing with a wealthy kingpin who has no regard for the “rabble” of his town (sound familiar?)

Yes, yes, yes—of course George matters to the survival of Bedford Falls, but so does Mrs. Davis. That single, small choice—to ask for $2.50 less than the others—resulted in Potter’s being thwarted in amassing more from those who have less (again…sound familiar??) Pottersville be damned.

Life is fragile in so many ways. We continue to deal with a tenacious virus that has now claimed over 800,000 American lives. (When I wrote last year’s post, the number was “only” 334,000.) And beyond its physical death toll, it has revealed and underscored the depths of the disease of polarization, where minorly inconvenient ways to mitigate the spread of the virus turn into majorly appalling actions like threatening the lives of school board members…over a mask mandate. What the holy fahrvergnugen?  

In my estimation, the world is more fragile than ever. From climate change to the weakening of democracy to systemic “isms” that damage and destroy innumerous lives daily, we need to find a way to examine our problems, learn how to fix them, and then take care of business. Cancers don’t go away by refusing to address them or merely casting blame, and neither will any one of the challenges plaguing our fragile world today.

Sure. Okay. I’ll get right on that.

Rather than taking action, though, I find myself untethered and in an overwhelming (and I mean Brené Brown’s “I’m blown” definition of the word) wave of anxiety that comes from thinking about how to even begin to address these problems. What can I possibly do? Is it too late? Is there time? Will anything truly change?

I don’t really know. What I do know, though, is that sometimes, even something as small as Mrs. Davis’ choice can make a big difference. We may not understand it at the time, but it matters.

It matters a great deal.

Life is fraGEElay.

$2.50 saved Bedford Falls.

All hope is not lost.

I wish you a peaceful, safe, and love-filled Christmas and New Year. 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.

A Year of Overwhelming FraGEElay

This is the ninth iteration of my yearly Christmas Eve “fraGEElay”* post, and 2020 has been a year of fragility like never before. Over 334,000 Americans have died due to Covid, with nearly 19 million cases overall.

That means that this Christmas millions of Americans will be dealing with the various degrees of loss this horrible virus has brought. Many, many tables will have one less place to set. Many more will have less to set upon that table. Utterly fragile times.

And altered lives mean altered traditions. Our Christmas traditions have already been morphing over the past few years with the loss of some loved ones and the relocation of others, but this year will be exceptional…in that it will only be our little family of three. Still, we are connected beyond the boundaries of our home through the gift of technology and even a Christmas Eve “parking lot sing-a-long” that our church is hosting. Blessings amidst the fragility.

Yes, this year will be very different, but perhaps the reduction of the typical hubbub and chaos that surround the season will give us the opportunity to better remember why the holiday exists in the first place.

And maybe in this different holiday experience we will be gentler with one another—and ourselves. And love one another—and ourselves. After all, love is what it is all about. It is the whole reason for the season with that little baby lying in a manger…the literal embodiment of love. And we could all stand a heck of a lot more love these days.

2020 has shown us just how much we lack in loving one another and how very fragile our country is in a multitude of ways. And while 2021 brings fresh hope with it…we have a long way to go before what has been broken can heal. A very long way. But, as I wrote in my last post, renewal will come even after devastating loss.

We may be fragile—and times may be fragile—but we are tough. We will fight for love and hope and health and healing and grace and mercy…and renewal.

I wish you a peaceful, safe, and love-filled Christmas and New Year. 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.

Fra GEE Lay 6.0

Wow. Six years ago was the first time I wrote a Christmas Eve remembrance to be gentle with one another. Hard to believe so many years of this tradition have passed already.

And in this surreal year of 2017, it certainly bears repeating that…we need to treat one another with kindness and love. Continue reading “Fra GEE Lay 6.0”