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Christmas’ mixed messages (01/04/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

The holidays bring different things to different people. Christmas holds significance and mystery for everyone, taking into account that it means nothing to some. Those who don't believe have no reason to celebrate.

This season may be bittersweet, with the memory of one who is no longer with the family. Others may be suffering through tough times, Christmas only adding to their stress and burden. The spirit of giving and sacrifice is alive, as well. Others turn unbearably cheery and busy...

but the MEANING OF CHRISTMAS is universal and constant.

Attempting to compose a thought-provoking poem, on this late afternoon of Christmas Eve, 2003, and skipping Tom & Jerry's downtown, something my late mother said pulls at my heartstrings. Dad preceded her in death by nine years. "People don't drop in to visit when the man of the house is done," she stated. I began to see my cheery mother in a deeper color after that.

All of those whom I've lost in my lifetime, one way or another, beg remembrance during the holidays, and, though all that I have is so abundant, that small voice deep within turns me inside out...

The mistletoe is dusty,

old hugs and kisses spent.

Her house fell still and dismal

since holiday merriment.

Grandchildren hadn't been there

since the funeral back in May,

when they bid farewell to Grandpa -

her longest, saddest day.

Today they brought her presents

with shimmering curly bows,

rich, refined and classy -

with price tags, heavens knows!

Arthritic hands had fussed and baked,

dinner soon to be prepared.

They told her not to bother,

they had to rush somewhere.

She once set a lovely table,

graced with scents and chatter,

China now all tucked away

as though it didn't matter.

Her starched white linen tablecloth

had illuminated jolly faces,

and now the table's uselessness

gapes with its empty spaces.

The tree he always fussed with

and placed in stand just so,

this year seems way off-kilter,

its lights barely glow.

Now and then someone will phone

or stop to chat a spell.

She always says she's doing fine

and feeling fairly well.

Through monotony of biding time,

lost memories abound,

and echoes of a festive home

fade in with children's sounds.

Bubble lights though darkness,

her fondest recollection.

As TV swells with "Silent Night"

old home traditions beckon.

She hadn't gone to midnight Mass

for many years, it's true.

Is GOOD NEWS this season brings us

left there upon the pew?

From Christmastime to Christmas,

as its gifts of LOVE are lived,

blessings turn to happiness

by what we share and give.

Grandma takes her goodies

and the ham she didn't bake,

gathering up those presents

purchased for custom's sake.

The walk was brisk and nippy,

but the family down the way

could have more hope tomorrow

for the gifts she gives today.

Grandpa's shining down tonight...

her sadness finds release.

She nods and smiles to heaven

lighting her way to PEACE.

So the mistletoe is dusty!

The tree rudely askew!

Grandma can't be bothered now-

with God's charity to do.

Whatever the dawning of a new year, a fresh new beginning, means to you, take to heart that, in giving of yourself, sadness and loneliness can melt away. I turn from my computer to gaze at the Moravian star that beams in our window tonight...and suddenly I'm truly "HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS."

All the love one's ever known makes its resting place within. Christmas brings it to light. Look to the stars. Nurture your heart.

Be well in 2004! 


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