That Christmas Card List

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

It’s that time of year for sending out Christmas cards and hopefully getting a few in return. I always enjoy running through my contacts list and thinking about the memories that I have shared with the people who made it there. I take the opportunity to update addresses and delete those who have died as well. Sadly this year I have had to eliminate far more names than I ever before recall having to do. By the time I reached the Ls I actually shed a few tears to think that so many of my cherished friends and relatives were gone. Removing their names and addresses and and phone numbers, one after another, was particularly difficult this time around because the precautions of the Covid era had separated us for such a long time. 

If found myself thinking of how nice it would have been to have one last conversation and hug with each person, all of whom had brought great joy into my life at different junctures. I thought of Bob, my long time next door neighbor, who worked in his yard each weekend just as I did. We would exchange dreams of having gardeners to do all of our tasks and then laughingly get back to work. Eventually we enjoyed meeting up for coffee and long chats after we both had retired from our jobs. 

I smiled when I remembered taking my precious pups to Jake. I trusted him to love and care for my dogs, and he never disappointed. He was also a friend with a pleasant and inviting personality that made him so easy to be around. His compassion for people and all God’s creatures will be missed by so many.

I loved my moments at work with Martha, and then later when we would meet regularly for lunch and lots of girl talk. She was a woman with a heart of gold and a determination of steel. She loved her family and much of our talk centered on the escapades of our children and grandchildren. I enjoyed her adventurous spirit that led her to travel, take up acting in community theater, and to teach immigrants how to speak and write and read English. 

That there was Bren, a brilliantly delightful woman with a touch of whimsy. Her sudden death shook me to my core. I still find it difficult to believe that she is no longer posting photos of her delightful seasonal decorations from her home on Marcy Street. I miss the notes that she sent and the impulsive phone calls in which we shared our thoughts. 

It was hard to believe that Jackie is also gone. She was one of the most elegant and eloquent women I have ever known. She always seemed like a big sister in many ways. I learned from her and sometimes even modeled myself after her. She was always kind and generous and infinitely wise.

My dear cousin DD has died as well. He was a giant of a man who endured decades of pain and suffering with the most pleasant demeanor. Conversations with him reminded me of those I had with my grandfather. He was a learned man who always seemed to impart knowledge and a joy of learning. 

Then there is my dear Aunt Valeria, a constant in my life, who is now with the angels because she herself was an angel. It’s the hardest to imagine a world without her. She was the one who so sweetly told me that my father had died. She spent her life taking care of my mother and me and my brothers. She had an unforgettable laugh and a wry sense of humor. Somehow it still has not become real to me that I will never see her again.

There is something so viscerally final about admitting that I do not need their contact information anymore. There is also a sense of regret that we did not communicate more often. I keep thinking of a friend whose son was murdered this year and the moving posts that he shares each day. His recurring theme is a sense of regret that he did not take even more time than he quite obviously did to walk and talk with his son. His hashtag has become “hug them until they let go.” 

I suppose that I find myself wondering if those who died this year really understood how much they had impacted my life. I know that I might have done better in conveying my feelings to them. I have a phone and I had their numbers. I wish I had called just to say hello but I let too much of the mundane business of life get in my way, even as I wrote blogs urging others to set aside time to reach out to friends and family members. 

Sending a Christmas card is a nice gesture, especially if it includes a brief message, but a short phone call is even better. Look at the contact list and ask if it’s been too long since talking with the people whose names and numbers are right there in front of you. Maybe a quick call will brighten some person’s day just as Bren so often did for me. 

Even if there are miles between you and so little time that you feel yourself rushing around, take a moment once a week during the coming year to return to that Christmas card list and reach out. Tell people what they mean to you. Make that list of people a source of joy, not regret.