Yesterday afternoon while sitting at home I had a very strange experience. I was visited by the ghost of Christmas past. A few years ago I had a similar experience while watching the family unwrap gifts, but this time I was all alone, and except for one small segment, that experience had been nostalgic and quite pleasant. This time however was very different.
I was sitting there watching TV just sort of nodding off and on when for reasons unknown I found myself staring at the Christmas tree. The tree lights were on and there were still a couple of lone gifts beneath it. I remember thinking that it actually looked kind of lonely. I sat there wondering if maybe I should begin taking it down or wait a few more days when suddenly the tree began to appear hazy. Then all at once I found that I was no longer in the present but back in 1991 on Christmas morning, the first Christmas without my mom who had passed away one month earlier.
Perhaps it was simply those fleeting thoughts and fractured dreams one has as they find themselves drifting off to sleep. I’m not sure, but the past had decided to pay me a little visit and just like that I was there again reliving every sorrowful moment. 1991 was by far the worst Christmas I have ever experienced. Sadly I allowed my grieve to consume me which resulted in the destruction of Christmas for my wife and kids. It wasn’t pretty.
It was pouring rain outside that Christmas morning, which only added to my misery. I watched myself sitting on the couch, trying to hold back my feelings of despair, anger and rage as the kids opened their gifts. It was like watching a movie you’ve seen before, you know how it turns out and I did. I remembered exactly what had been running through my head in those moments before I exploded. How could there be joy or good cheer in our home? How could there be laughter? How indeed? My mother was dead!
Finally the moment came and right before my eyes I watched the me of 1991 come unglued. It was an ugly scene. Consumed as I was by pain and guilt, I selfishly disrupted everything, shouting, cursing and stomping around, going on and on about the unfairness of it all and how no one could understand the way I was feeling. Even my wife’s sincere attempts to console only set me off more. She had both her parents, how could she begin to know.
Beside myself with rage and not knowing what else to do, I jumped in my van and took off. I drove aimlessly through the rain crying and shouting, pleading with God to tell me why! I hurt so badly. I hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye, a chance to smooth things out. You see my mom and I had a bitter argument in August. By my birthday in early September we had made peace by phone but it’s not the same as doing it in person. She and my dad were living in Las Vegas and we didn’t get a chance to see before her fatal heart attack in November. Believe me I wanted to but we just couldn’t find the time to get out there.
I remember a week or so before her death I got this overwhelming urge to go see her that weekend. I even had my van serviced so we’d be ready to go. When I mentioned it to my wife I learned that my daughter had some school function on Saturday and my son was going to the desert with his grandparents. It had been planned for weeks. I felt it necessary that we all should go, since they were busy I put it off for a week. But it never happened. She died the following week.
My wife and I drove out the day she died. We were going to fly with my sister and brother but my dad called and asked me to bring my van so he could pack his things and come home. I remember the drive to Las Vegas was surreal. I couldn’t believe she was gone. Once there as we were sitting with my dad in the kitchen of their apartment he told me that for the past few days my mom had been going to the window when a car pulled up out front, hoping it was me. God that hurt. I should have gone to see her.
The next thing I know I’m watching myself standing all alone in the pouring rain at my mom’s grave site, grief stricken and in tears. I’m surprised I wasn’t shaking my fist at the sky. I have no idea how long I stood there, I had no concept of time. Sometime later my wife found me at the cemetery. She stood with me in the rain and told me what had happened after I left. My leaving had really rocked the boat. After I left the kids were even more upset and crying. My son had jumped on his bike and had gone out in the rain looking for me. My wife had gone after him and they all went out looking for me. She said she had a pretty good idea where I’d be. From there we went home and I tried to patch things over with the kids but the damage was done. I could see the hurt in their eyes. Man, I really screwed up.
And suddenly there I sat staring at our lonely Christmas tree, seeing the faces of my children in my mind, the pain and confusion. I hurt them badly that Christmas morning. I was so selfish, thinking only of myself, my pain, my hurt, when I should have been thinking of them. Yes, the ghost of Christmas past paid me quite a visit this year. Stirring up memories of a day I would much rather forget.
All these experiences both good and bad are a part of us, a part of who we are, of who we have become. Perhaps it is good to be reminded of times like these, good to be reminded of past mistakes and bad choices because every mistake or wrong choice we make leaves behind a special gift for us and that gift is the valuable lessons we learn from them. peace…
Just a thought…