A lot of people put them up each year . . . you know, the Christmas tree that’s decorated with memories. We have one at our house that holds the ornaments the kids (and grandkids) made in school, the plastic canvas ones stitched by my husband’s grandmother and those made by the wife of our former manager in Selmer. She always made them as favors for their Christmas parties and I was always lucky enough to get one. There are several I made for our dorm room tree when I was a freshman in college, satin-wrapped and studded with sequins and decorative beads held in place by straight pins. My roommate and I made those because we didn’t think we had enough money to actually buy ornaments, but I’m pretty sure we spent more on the materials than mass-produced ones would have cost. I’m also pretty sure we had a lot more fun making them than we ever would have had just walking into a store and purchasing some.
There are those that were gifts from the students I taught in the church’s Wednesday night kindergarten class and the few surviving ones that once graced the trees of my childhood . . . real trees that Dad would take outside and spray flocking all over—flocking that left a trail through the house as it made its way to the picture window in the living room so my mother could decorate it in turquoise mini-disco balls and snowy glass pinecones.
But there are three ornaments on our tree that mean a great deal more than most of the others. Each year I search for the perfect place to hang them so they aren’t necessarily side by side, but close enough that you can’t see one without seeing all three. If you look at the picture attached to this blog, you might be able to find them, hiding behind the icicles and ‘mongst the other memories. Some of you may recognize them as the silver snowflakes we provide for the families we serve through our Savannah location . . . some of you may even have a few that you hang on your tree each year.
Those three snowflakes represent three people who are very important to our family—my mother, my dad, and my husband’s grandmother. “Miss” Emma (as I knew her) or Nana (as all the grandkids and great-grandkids knew her) was a force to be reckoned with, having been a school teacher for . . . well, forever. She was active until a week before her death from a massive stroke, so her two oldest great-grands—my two children—have a lot of fond memories, including Christmas breakfasts at her house where everyone ate until they were stuffed and left smelling of country ham and redeye gravy.
Every year, when I unpack the ornaments and come upon these three, there’s a moment when I just sit and hold them and let the memories wash over me. And that’s the beauty of this season. It’s a time for friends and family—both past and present—and the memories we’ve spent a lifetime creating and collecting.
The holidays are hard when grief is your companion, and I know right now there are so many who are struggling just to get through the season. To all of you I want to say . . . remember those you’ve lost. Don’t try to banish them from your celebrations, because you can’t. Those memories won’t be locked away, no matter how hard you may try. So say their names. Look at their pictures. Tell their stories. And give those around you permission to do the same. You loved them without measure in life. It’s all right to let the world know you still do.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.