A legacy of joy during the Christmas season

Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” has been my favorite Christmas classic since I was a child. And as the great classics often do, the work has taken on different meanings to me depending on the season in my life. When I was a child, it was more of a ghost story than a conversion story. And the mystical feeling has stayed with me on Christmas Eves since my childhood. This year, the most prominent themes in the classic were the power of joy and the tradition of memories at Christmastime.

We spend a good deal of time in the Christmas season remembering. We remember those who have been dear to us through the years. We remember past Christmases, the celebrations, the funny stories, family drama, and some of the special treats and meals made by people we love. We think back to “first Christmases” for new couples, for new babies in the family. We often remember the “last Christmases.” The holy day is truly a mark of passage every year. It is good to remember. Remembering reminds us where we have been and that wherever we are, we did not get there alone.

Christmas was always one of my dad’s favorite times of the year. A large part of his joy came from giving. He donated to Christmas Wish, Goodfellow, Angel Trees and Toys for Tots. He provided for families and bought gifts for people who needed a little hand up (so many stories we learned of after his death). He socked back $20 bills all year so he could leave them anonymously for people who were struggling. He also made cedar wreaths and nativity sets well into the nights after he would get home from working outside all day. He loved Christmas because it embodied all that was good.

A week before he died dad gathered the strength to tell mom, Chris and me that we– the four of us and our little families — were blessed beyond belief. I will never forget that.

Through pain and the sadness of knowing he was leaving soon, he still saw joy. He still shared the joy with us.

That Christmas Eve we sang carols around his hospital bed next to the Christmas tree in our family room. We made our traditional Christmas Eve dinner and watched midnight mass. There was 12 inches of snow on the ground so we all stayed the night.

Wee into the hours of tomorrow morning marks the 13th anniversary of dad’s death. He left on his favorite day of the year.

Dad always made Christmas special because he chose to. He chose to celebrate by giving to others, by smiling, singing, and spreading love — and his joy transcended his death. We can all have a legacy of joy. It is never too late.

Merry Christmas and may God bless us, everyone!

By Candance Brake President and CEO, Greater Owensboro, Chamber of Commerce