One of the most cherished memories that Frieda and I shared as kids was of my grandmother’s beautiful white Christmas tree, adorned with silver and crystal ornaments and small diamond-shaped mirrors that tinkled like chimes when you walked nearby. No one else we knew had a tree so brilliant. Visitors to the house oohed and aahed, leaning in close to see their reflection in the mirrored branches. We were always very proud.
Today her precious tree, so fragile and so deeply loved, is collecting dust in a box somewhere in a garage. A few days ago I panicked realizing this. Both of my grandparents are gone now and the tree is not being used. It all feels very wrong. I miss those holidays, the silliness and drama of my extended family and the unexpected joys of being together. I had thought that these traditions would last, but now we are all scattered about and every conversation seems to begin with an apology: So sorry we can’t make it this year… Sorry I couldn’t afford a gift… Sorry I forgot to get my card in the mail…
But instead of feeling low or shedding any more tears, I am using this time to reflect on the realities of impermanence. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, as paraphrased: “You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.” I won’t be able to see my grandmother’s white Christmas tree this year and, even if I could get my hands on those dusty boxes of ornaments, there is no way to relive the past. With each breath, though, I am already creating new memories with a wonderful husband, an amazing daughter, and of course, a special new tree. I want to be thankful for all that we have – even when what we have is the occasional nostalgia for the way things used to be – without hoarding and clinging to things that can’t last. As another great thinker wrote, “The only lasting truth is Change.” Being mindful of this truth compels me to stop and observe with deep appreciation the world around me right now. I don’t want to miss it!
Here’s wishing you a joyful holiday season filled with peace, compassion, and fresh waters of love ever flowing in upon you.