This time of year, we hear, is hard for many. We often hear about the difference a smile or a hug can make. And it often prompts us to tweak our attitude a little.
This week, I attended a funeral for a well-loved man who passed unexpectedly last weekend.
Funerals during the holidays should not be allowed. Death during the Christmas season just shouldn’t happen. But it does. And it did, and this time, it touched my family.
On the way to the funeral December 23, I listened as the radio played “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I sneered. Yeah, right. It wasn’t for the family that was burying their dad, husband, grandpa. Or the other family we reported on whose seven-week-old infant died Tuesday in a car crash. The “Most Wonderful Season of All?” Not really.
People struggle with addictions more at this time of year than any other. People miss loved ones more during the holidays than any other time. We struggle financially – some to the point of despair. Suicide rates are high. The stress is sometimes unbearable. The holiday traditions can become so busy that we arrive on Christmas Day fatigued, broke, and sad, not happy, joyful and energized to see family and friends. Frankly, some don’t even have family or friends to welcome. To say nothing about the over-commercialization.
But before you think I’m a Grinch, read on.
When I arrived at the Ashburnham Funeral Home, I admit, I was in a grinchy state of mind. I was mad at the music. I was mad at the shoppers, and I was mad at God – or Bad Luck – for taking my friend’s dad. I was mad at Christmas for happening in the middle of this time of mourning. Okay. I was mad I had to go to a funeral when there was still groceries and presents to be bought . . .
I pulled in and pushed the car into park. And before I could turn the ignition off, a head poked in my window. A joke flew off his lips. It took me a minute, but then I realized it was Ted Nattress, a man whom I’ve known off and on through the years, and didn’t expect to see that day anymore than I expected to see Santa Claus.
He was directing traffic and greeting mourners.
With a smile on his face, and a grin to warm the stoniest of hearts.
I stood with Ted awhile, as he conducted himself professionally greeting the guests to the funeral, all the while, gifting me a little cheer, a little news of his family and its success, and the healthy dose of sarcasm that’s guaranteed to fetch a grin. In those few moments – maybe five minutes – I was so grateful that Ted had taken the time to rib me about my parking job, and shine a smile into my life. He had turned the day around.
I stand firm that Christmas and funerals are an unlikely couple; they are bound to get on one another’s nerves. Yet at the same time, I discovered, first-hand this time, what difference one selfless person can make in an otherwise determinedly grinchy world.
So to Ted Nattress, you were my Cindy Lou of Whoville this year. Lesson learned? In the words of the narrator of “The Grinch:” “How could it be so? It came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags! . . .Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”