All over East Texas, we've turned our attention toward Thanksgiving, and then Christmas will be upon us.

Although I'm not necessarily one of those people who is ready to put up Christmas decorations in July, I've always been quite fond of this coming cozy season of cooler weather, comfort food, twinkling lights, and dedicated time with those we love. For many of us, we are entering "the most wonderful time of the year."

But. When someone we loved dearly has died--someone who contributed to what made the season so joyful, these coming "merry" weeks can seem especially heartbreaking. Still beautiful, of course, but yet...

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My Dad loved this coming time of year. He was one of those sparkly, quick-to-laugh, jolly types with an infectious laugh and quirky sense of humor. He was the kind of Dad who went out of his way to add extra twinkles to everything--from the music he'd sing, to the way he'd whip something up in the kitchen, to the way he helped decorate the tree as we got closer to Christmas.

But even when he himself received Christmas presents, he would light up like a kid. Precious memories. My dear Mom, Sister, and I reminisce about this all the time.

Photo: Tara Holley
Photo: Tara Holley

If you found money in your stocking, he was the type that would fold it into little bows and add twirl ribbon--just to add a little extra sparkle to things. He would make us get out of the house and go hear choirs sing in the Rose Garden and drink hot apple cider.

At Christmastime, even after my sister and I became adults, before we knocked on the front door at our Mom and Dad's house, he made sure there was Christmas music playing and he had put on his Santa hat before opening the door with a big smile.

Although we did realize when he was alive that he was a huge presence and personality in our family dynamic, once my father died, the full width and breadth of that void was stunning.

For a few years, after he passed, it seemed my family was a bit lost. It wasn't that the rest of us were "bah-humbug" or anything, but he filled in so many moments that we just didn't realize to what extent he added the "Merry."

My late dad and niece, Rachel
My late dad and niece, Rachel

As the years continue to go by, and the pain softens, it occurs to me that one of the best ways to heal and sweeten the bitter is to seek to incorporate some of what he was into who we are today during the holidays--and every day.

Instead of focusing on what is missing now that his particular kind of cheer is missing, we can focus on ways to share that same magic and joy with each other and others.

I've already tried to weave into my own life some of the unique signature things he would do for us. I could never replace him, of course. However, by doing my best to honor his memory by transcending the pain and re-shaping it into ways of being that, in some small way, communicate the joy he would share with us during the holidays, a bit of his presence seems to have returned.

Mom and my late Dad, Photo: Tara Holley
Mom and my late Dad, Photo: Tara Holley

How about you? Are you missing someone dear to you this time of year? I'm so sorry for your loss.

What are some ways you might incorporate some of what you loved about them into your own holiday traditions? Not only are you giving honor to the one you've lost, but in some ways you allow them to live on, in you, for others.

Sending love to you this holiday season, friend.

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