I am suffering from a Christmas hangover of sorts. I did not “over do it” with the carton of nearly-expired eggnog that I discovered in the back of the fridge. I considered adding some Maker’s Mark and seeing if it was still good (waste-not, want-not). Instead, I poured it down the drain deciding to err on the side of discretion with a month-old dairy product. No, it was not the “Holiday Cheer,” I guess it is a near-term Auld Lang Syne triggered by finally dismantling the trappings of Christmas (yes, it is the end of January and the trees are still up, they’re artificial).
As a childless forty-something male who works in funeral service, my take on Christmas is a little different. My wife is more than tolerant of a grumpy man that slogs through Advent mumbling about the dead and their living, and the evils of “Commercemas”. I have no kids to please. To quote one of the great thinkers of Christmas lore, “Humbug”.
I gripe about decorating the interior of our home and refuse to decorate the exterior. When the first Christmas songs are heard in the stores after Halloween, my head wants to explode. I spend most of December trying to avoid “shopping traffic” (tough when you live less than a mile from a large shopping mall) while listening to “Alternative” Christmas tunes like the The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York” and Colin Gawel’s “Still Love” Christmas” (neither one is the next “Joy To the World”) and searching for obscure Holiday Ales . I never seem to find “the Christmas Spirit” in the traditional sense until some time on the afternoon of the 24th, and even that is a little forced. My wife really deserves a medal; I’m awful.
Eventually I get to a place where I do love Christmas, even if that is late January. I assume like many, my gratitude works best in retrospect (rather than in “the moment”), but I’m trying. In any event, my Christmas “hangover” is lamenting the passing of (more than) a few of my “favorite things” for another year and the missed opportunities – not the least of which is acknowledging the glad surprises upon which I stubbed my toe while plodding along through the “winter wonderland” in their moments.
Each year I help host one of our annual Candlelight Services, which ends up being a tremendous affirmation of what happens here. If you have not read Elizabeth Gerhard’s post regarding the Candlelight Service, please follow this link. She’s absolutely right about all of it. Speaking the names is cathartic. Every year, I speak a name, my eyes tear, voice cracks, and in that moment that person is with me. Last year the name was “Charlie Wilson”, the man most responsible for me being a funeral director; the year before it was “Tom Brown,” my High School Biology teacher and a good friend. It is one of my favorite events of the holiday season (really).
Of course there are also many “normal” things in the holiday season that I treasure. Being a funeral director (or maybe just being me) keeps one of my feet in the realm of the dead and the other in the land of the living. I meet people every day whose deceased person reminds me of a person in my life. My Christmas hangover is the passing of another season (not just the time, but the moments and experiences of that time) and thinking of all the people that go with them, and more than a touch of “I should have appreciated that while it happened”.
I guess in the spirit of the New Year, I’ll say that my resolution is to realize what I am grateful for in its moment. Every day that I spend doing what I do points out the temporary nature of things, but it also affords real opportunity. I’m sure next year there will be a similar hangover (hopefully less intense), but as the man says at the end of the song, “On the days where I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days”. Good Luck and Happy Holidays (from the end of January).
I never meant to be a Funeral Director. If you’d told the college-aged me that I would do this, I would have laughed at you. A few transitions and 17 years in funeral service later, I can’t imagine what else I would do. I like to cook, and laugh, philosophize and entertain so many of my friends have suggested that I should be a chef or run a bar. My educational background is pure science and I taught gross anatomy for a while. I have worked in a steel mill, a chemical factory, an independent record store, and a wine shop but I think I’m meant to do this. Along with my wife Beverly, I live in Northwest Columbus. We have no children or pets but usually have a house full of company!