This afternoon, I went to see Manheim Steamroller’s Christmas Tour performance at the Performing Arts Center here in town. The Season of Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years’s is already beginning. The Christmas Music is arranged in accord with their usual stylized form of light jazz/New Age music.
It is the first Christmas activity in the new configuration of this season of the year, without Mary Ann. I already don’t like it, but that is just the way it is. The performance made use of every imagineable sort of sound that can be produced by both unplugged and electronic instruments. The volume was powerful but not painful. The visuals on the screen behind the performers sometimes included actors and dancers dressed in period costumes providing a visual story to go along with the music being played. Sometimes it was hard to tell what were previously recorded sounds and what was coming from the people on the stage. They were perfectly coordinated.
Since music has the ability to bypass my defenses, for a time it was pretty emotional. I let the feelings have there way, but they never broke through to water running down my face — close , but not quite. I can tell that this season will just not be very easy to negotiate. I remember that it was already pretty tough last Christmas. In fact, since retirement, there has been a part of me that just wished we could skip December and go right into January.
It was helpful that after the concert there was a gathering of the folks from the Hospice Grief Support Group at the home of one of the members. While we did not talk about the challenges of dealing with the holidays since it was just a social get-together, being around folks who are in similar circumstances was comforting. Going to an empty house after the concert would have been pretty difficult.
Before the Parkinson’s moved into the later stages, Mary Ann was a master at doing Christmas. She had to learn to manage without much help from me since it was the busiest time of the year as a Pastor. She started buying gifts some time early in September. By the middle of November, she already had a full complement of gifts. In fact, sometimes she would forget all that she had gotten and keep getting presents after there were already plenty in the closet. Every once in a while, we had to do an inventory of presents to be sure that the numbers and size balanced out for each of the Kids and Grandchildren.
I was a spoiled sport relative to outdoor decorations. She would have loved them, but I just never could get into it since there was so much going on at work (at least that was my excuse). She always did a nice job decorating the inside of the house. Her Christmas quilt was always hung in our bedroom, replacing the one with the basket pattern in each block. The Manger Scene came out with the wise men placed away from the manger until Epiphany came.
We would often get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree (the Kids always made fun of the trees we picked out). In early years we went out and cut it down. Then later we got trees from a Christmas Tree lot (still Charlie Brown trees). Only in recent years did we finally get an artificial Christmas Tree. Then came the ornaments, an eclectic variety. Some years there was a theme in terms of color, but most often there was a wonderful variety of styles and sizes and shapes. There is the sleigh that my Grandfather made — the cards go in that.
She loved Christmas so much. Last year was difficult since she had started the decline. We were pretty limited in what we could do. We did manage to get the tree up. I don’t know yet what I will do this year. It is hard to imagine bringing the tree up from the storage room, putting it together and decorating it. I can understand why those who have lost a Loved One struggle so at this time of the year. So much of what usually is done seems sort of pointless. The center of the season, the core message remains powerful and meaningful. The decorations are pretty, but they are not the center.
The goal will be to focus on the unconditional love of our Creator and the new life offered through the One who joined us in our human journey bringing hope in the face of whatever comes.