Column: Sometimes Even Christmas Can Sting

Sometimes Even Christmas Can Sting

Dear Readers:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It’s a wonderful time to be alive– family, friends and loved ones, hot cocoa, home-baked cookies, and presents – both giving and getting!

But for many of us this can be a time of sadness, loneliness and loss. That can be part of Christmas too.

I hesitate to call this a bad thing, even if it’s not as enjoyable as all of the regular holiday merriment. I know that there are many different types of “down” feelings, and as many causes as there are types. For me, though, at this time of year, it’s the feelings stemming from losses that come up in my heart right next to the warmth and merriment.

I know that I am not the only person who associates loss with the holidays. I am sure that there are plenty of folks who have experienced more losses and losses that are more painful than those I’ve experienced. Maybe it’s too painful for them, and they don’t look back on these losses with a sad smile and a feeling of nostalgia for Christmases past.

Even if I do have some part of me that looks on the bright side of my own losses, i.e. seeing my departed family again, even if only in my mind, I can also see how it could be too much to deal with, were the circumstances different.

The thoughts of these folks come to me now though, because those that I’ve lost are my grandparents, Jane and Alex Haglund and Clarence Komaniecki. Annette Komaniecki, “Grandma Kitty” is still alive. But it was these four that out of everyone in my life, they made childhood Christmases a time of joy and merriment.

Grandma Haglund (Jane) always made Haglund Christmases an event. Giant bags of presents, excitement, and family gatherings at their home in Sterling.

Grandpa Haglund (Alex) had plenty of Christmas spirit and enjoyed the merriment and the company, but in terms of making an actual family event happen, he was inept – that was all Grandma.

Grandpa Pens (Clarence) always made Christmas (and anytime I was with him) come alive with his stories. He would take us to midnight Mass too, at St. Pius X in Lombard.

While I miss all three grandparents enormously at this time of year, it’s only now that they are truly returning to life in my thoughts and memories. I have my own kids, of course. My parents ARE the grandparents.

Revisiting the memories of these wonderful grandparents of mine, and memories of the Christmases that they helped make so magical is a sad trip down memory lane for me, but I feel like it inspires me to make Christmas for my own children magical. If I weren’t trying to make this wonderful for them, I’d be ignoring a great family tradition.

So I have a Christmas responsibility. To really live up to these folks who have departed, I have to step into the role they filled so admirably. I miss them too though, not because they make me try to live up to their example, but because at Christmas time, I don’t want to have to. I just want to hear a story from Grandpa Pens, open presents from Grandma Haglund and have a conversation again with Grandpa Haglund. And I do plan to have a chat with Grandma Kitty, who now lives near Atlanta.

I want to be a kid again, and I want, I really want, for them to not be gone anymore.

That’s not the way it works though. And sometimes, even Christmas is a little sad.

Don’t cry though. No matter who you’ve lost and how much it stings though, I can say with a fair degree of certainty, they wouldn’t want that.

Those you have lost and who you miss might long for you too, but this is one time of year that I think they would like to look down and see you smile – just like you did for them when you were little.

–Alex Haglund, Managing Editor