Ornaments on the tree

Posted By | December 12, 2019 11:55 am

By Topher Wiles

Grandma Nell was so sweet when she gave us her tree about 16 years ago.  That Christmas tree has seen a lot of years, and we were happy to keep putting it up year after year when she no longer could.  As our first Christmas tree in the Wiles family, our ornaments took on the personality of the tree.  We began decorating with mostly hand-me-down ornaments donated by Grandma, my mom, sweet friends, and dirty-Santa game winnings.  Now that old tree is completely filled with memories of sweet times and sweet people long past.  I’d like to tell you about three of our ornaments that will bless some families this year who may find some struggling moments during the Christmas holiday season.

One of my favorite ornaments to put on the tree makes me laugh out loud as it comes with a story.  As we pull this delicate ornament out of the box, my kids wait expectantly on the edge of their seat for the coming hilarity of the story.  During our first Christmas together as husband and wife, my Ashley decided to cheaply make ornaments for our tree.  Her chosen materials for the ornament were cinnamon and apple sauce.  Did you know you can bake them together to make a cute star shape, bell, or heart through which ribbon can be threaded?  Yes, we have cinnamon based ornaments that have been on our tree for 15 years.  And they taste horrible.  I would know, because 15 years ago, I took a bite out of one of those ornaments.  They may smell sweet, but they taste like dirt.  My kids laugh every year as I tell the story of my ornament-tasting time.  Some ornamental memories make us laugh.

I have another ornament that I alone get to hang on the tree near the top.  It’s a little blue plastic star framing a nativity scene.  It’s not anything special, but with a family that doesn’t profess or practice a lot of religious faith, my late Grandma Marge’s makes me smile as it signifies her own belief in Christ.  She hung it every year at the top of her tree, and that ornament is one of the few things I have left from my grandma who passed away 24 years ago.  When I hang the ornament, I remember the sweet times of eating chicken pot pie at the bar in her kitchen or visiting the humane society where she worked.  Some ornamental memories make us smile.

There is another ornament that completely caught me off guard.  My mom was always crafty and handmade so many things for us kids through our years.  Annually, my mom would handmake a few new ornaments on our tree, most of them were odd, like crocheted lollipops or paper stars, but I kept them every year anyway and dutifully hung them on the tree.  When mom passed away, in May, a couple years ago, I didn’t think a thing about those Christmas ornaments until I started hanging them on the tree six months later.  I pulled out the pink crocheted lollipop and was surprised as tears started welling up in my eyes.  I had cried little over mom’s passing, as I’ve been a minister and hospital chaplain for years, often comforting others in the passing of their loved ones.  Yet, here I was, six months later, breaking down in tears, remembering mom and all her handmade ornaments.  Some ornamental memories make us cry.

Laughing, smiling, and crying are all perfectly normal emotions during the holiday season as we remember the good times, the sweet people, and the lives that we miss.  If you are struggling through missing a loved one this Christmas season, I want you to know that it is perfectly OK to experience all of those emotions.  There is a song on YouTube from the Piano Guys and Craig Evans called “The Sweetest Gift” that will help you in expressing all those emotions.  Simply search for that song title and artists, and you’ll be blessed with a song that expresses some of our tough sentiments.

There are other ways you can express honor and respect for those who have passed this Christmas season.  I’d like to suggest a few that I’ve found helpful here.

  • Serve others in their name (my Grandma Marge loved serving at the Humane Society.)
  • Make a donation to their favorite charity in their name (Grandma Nell loved church missions.)
  • Set a vase of their loved one’s favorite flowers in front of an empty chair (My mom loved tulips.)
  • Share a memory of their loved one and observe a moment of silence before enjoying their holiday meal.
  • Prepare your loved one’s favorite dish from their recipe for the holiday meal. (Grandpa loved oranges at Christmas!)
  • In our church, we purchase poinsettias in honor of those who have passed as a reminder of special memories with them.
  • Create a scrapbook of items that remind you of your loved one.
  • Visit the gravesite with family.•Watch their favorite movie or TV show or listen to their favorite song. (Watching Andy Griffith in honor of a loved one never gets old!)

Whatever you do or however you express your emotions for the loved one you miss, I want you to remember to live a life honoring Christ and look forward to a sweet reunion with family in heaven.  The holidays can be a season that make us laugh, smile, and cry, it’s true.  But it is also true that there will be a day where we will get to see our Christ-honoring loved ones again, and that gives me hope and peace during the holidays here.  Remember the Lord most of all, and may your family be blessed this season.

“To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.  Your ways, God, are holy.” – Psalm 77:10-13a     

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