This is the week I finalize our family Christmas card and start stamping and addressing envelopes. It’s a labor-intensive task, but it’s an annual holiday tradition I really enjoy. Designing a custom card and writing an original Christmas poem provides a creative soul like me with a platform for sharing my heart with friends and family. The cost of sending out close to a hundred cards adds up. Especially when you consider the price of materials, photos and postage. But it’s worth it to me. It’s a gift I give myself.
I come from a long line of Christmas card senders. My mom was a conscientious correspondent. So was her mother. Communicating the “good news of great joy” that this season represents (in terms of our faith and our family) is at the heart of the holiday. Christmas couldn’t be Christmas without sending Christmas cards.
Recently, while sorting through a box of family memorabilia, I came across an addressed envelope that had never been mailed. I recognized the name. When I tore open the envelope, I discovered it was a Christmas card my grandmother had intended to send to her brother 60 years ago. Sadly, he never received it. Not long after addressing the unsent card, my grandmother began to struggle with dementia. As a result, her tradition of sending Christmas cards came to an end.
Because my great-uncle and his wife lived within the state, I’m fairly certain my grandmother had the opportunity to convey her affection to her brother in subsequent to that Christmas season. But finding that unmailed card got me to thinking of the importance of telling people that we care about how we feel about them while we can.
Life has a way of complicating our best intentions for communicating our love. Friends and family move away. Friends and family die unexpectedly. Our ability to verbalize our feelings (as in the case of my Nana’s memory loss) may evaporate. And those we could have communicated with may very well lose their ability to remember who we are once we finally get around to letting them know.
This month as extended family members gather for gift-exchanges and holiday meals, there will be empty chairs in living rooms and empty places at dinner tables. Those vacancies will call to mind those who have left us through the doorway of death since last we gathered. And in many cases, there will be silent sighs of regret for not having had one last opportunity to say “I love you!”
Like an unsent Christmas card or unmailed birthday card, unspoken expressions of affection are missed chances to remind someone special that we really think they are. When we realize we blew it, we hope we’ll have another chance. And I guess this column is a call to action. It’s my hope that you take advantage of the chance you have this Christmas to remind someone what they mean to you.
The message of Christmas for those who follow the Christian faith is essentially this: The Creator of the universe didn’t assume those created in His image understood they were loved. Instead, he became a human Christmas card conveying His love. This priority mail envelope was personally delivered complete with a tracking number and fully insured. And while this one-of-a-kind Christmas card was delivered, there is no guarantee that it has been opened by those to whom it was addressed. That remains a personal decision.
Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.