How many memories have flooded your mind this holiday season? Good or bad, memories have a habit of springing to life without warning. Just the slightest whiff of cedar and suddenly you can see your little brother in his jammies just as plain as day. The coolness of the wood floor on your back makes you shiver as you gaze up through the limbs at the large, colorful lights. The clock moves back and your cheeks are stinging from the cold, damp air and the prickly branches burn your fingers. Your legs can’t move fast enough to keep up with Daddy’s six-foot stride. Random memories float through your mind leaving spontaneous smiles… or tears… in their wake. My dad passed away just a few days before Christmas last year. And even though we avoided holding his funeral on Christmas Eve or Day, this wonderful season will forever be marked with a note of sadness. For a time, that somber note rang loudly in my ears, drowning out the beautiful symphony of life around me.
As the year rambled on, the pain subsided until, once again, December rolled around. The moment I ripped November from the calendar, images of IV poles and chemo treatments sprang to mind. But as my heart slowly crept up into my throat, I remembered the “Co-Colers.” As the tears swelled, I couldn’t help but laugh. My dad really loved his “Co-Colers.” I’m not a Coke fan myself. I may even be the only person on the planet who doesn’t like soft drinks. But my dad loved them. During his last days, those “Co-Colers” were one of the few “foods” he could keep down. Even though he could only take sips, we brought him cases of the stuff. It’s amazing how much satisfaction such a simple pleasure can bring, to the giver as well as the recipient. All the wealth of the world couldn’t buy his health, or even one additional day on this earth. The greatest gift we could give, indeed the only gift we could give last Christmas, was our presence… and ice cold “Co-Colers.”
A single sad note should never ruin a beautiful symphony. Tromping through the woods with Dad searching for the “perfect” tree will always be my favorite Christmas memory. I feel fortunate to be able to relive such a wonderful experience every time I catch that pungent whiff of freshly cut cedar. And even though I haven’t been able to go on a real tree hunt since my childhood, and I still don’t like the taste of Coke, my Dad will always be in my heart reminding me that the best gift anyone can give or receive is simply their presence. Love in action is a powerful force. It creates wonderful memories that no moment of despair can overcome. We must choose which memories we allow our minds to dwell upon. And I would encourage you to choose those virtuous and praiseworthy memories that are true, honest, just, lovely, and of good report, to keep close to your heart.