Every year around this time, I think of a trip I made through the mausoleum at a cemetery. I think about the family who put up the little tree outside a tomb with the banner, “Baby’s First Christmas”. I also think of the woman who had a still born child the week of Christmas. So many of us rush around preparing for a holiday which features a baby, that we might not take a moment to think of those families who mourn the loss of a child. Perhaps we know of a family who struggles throughout this time of year because of a loss of a child. Perhaps we know of a woman or family who desperately want a child, but are unable to have one of their own. Perhaps we can take a breath and remember that not all of us are in a festive mood. Make a place in your heart for those who suffer this time of year.
A woman working on her Master’s degree in Journalism asked me yesterday why I want a green burial. Environmentally friendly burial or what we used to just call burial has become so much a part of my view on death. The thought of having my children embalm or cremate me is so repugnant to me. I know too much. I know too much about the processes of embalming and cremation to really feel at ease with them. I know many do. I remember when my husband first made me promise that I would not embalm him and how funny I found that request. Everybody does it! Why shouldn’t he? I know now why. The fact of the matter is green burial suits my outlook. I want the earth to receive my body and let nature take its course. I do not want an expensive burial. I want my people to gather, tell stories and to pray. No need for elaborate preparation of the body. I do not want my body drained of blood and replaced with poison. For what purpose? So that the body can be preserved for a few extra days? No thank you. Please just clean and anoint my body and place it in a shroud or coffin and later the grave after the appropriate liturgical services.
I usually write about how the holiday season offers us an opportunity to connect the past with the present, today I will take a different position. Sometimes honoring our family for some comes as a welcome opportunity, for others it does not. For many the holiday season can be wrought with conflicting emotions and memories, making the season as a whole very uncomfortable and upsetting. There is a solution. We can make our own decisions on how to celebrate these feasts. We do not need to feel the obligation to celebrate as we have in the past. Many people do, even if they tend towards a traditional attitude. Every feast day is different from the last by the simple fact that every day comes with its own special circumstances. No two days are ever the same, and so no two holidays are the ever the same. If you find yourself with conflicting emotions and unpleasant memories, take this opportunity to have the holiday as you see fit. There really are no rules, and if you need to heal from memories and emotions that haunt you, set yourself free from the bondage of replacing these with new memories. All that is required to celebrate any holiday is a joyful heart. When we become adults, we are free to decide how and why we celebrate. It is up to you how you arrive at that point. The past need not enslave you. If that means you do not see your family, then do not see your family. If it means you do not decorate, do not decorate. If it means that celebrating in the quiet of your own home by yourself, be the best guest in your own home. Some of us take pleasure in keeping pleasant memories alive in the holiday season. Some of us do not, and that is just fine. Take a moment to yourself to decide what will give you the most joy this season and discard the rest. Make joy the true tradition.