Growing up, Christmas was about much more than the presents, decorations or food. Certainly we had all of the trappings; I remember gently hanging silver foil “icicles” over the branches of our tree, and helping Mom to place on the mantle her collection of angel figurines on a bed of “angel hair” lit from below. But at its heart, Christmas was a religious observation.
My Mom was a devout Episcopalian. We went to church and Sunday school every Sunday, and if we were sick, Mom read the week’s lessons and prayer service at home. And Christmas Eve meant attending midnight mass, which actually used to be held at midnight. When I was very young, we attended the Washington National Cathedral (I think). I drifted to strains of “Silent Night,” snuggled against Mom’s silky seal skin fur coat, surrounded by votive candles and swags of fresh greens. That distant memory of light, music, smell and touch is about as close to heaven as I can imagine.
Through the years, the scene was repeated — at St. Mark’s in Seattle, St. Patrick’s in Eastmont (near Everett) and St. Andrew’s in Tacoma.
This is a different kind of Christmas Eve. My Dad and I will be at my house, but he is not strong enough to join in the festivities at my in-laws. Much less attend Christmas Eve service. My advisor Jim reminds me, “Each moment now, even the most gritty one, is precious.”
Mom, tonight you are closer to me than ever, though you have been gone for almost 14 years. Keep the candles burning for Dad. He is trying to find you.