For Those Missing at Christmas

by Jay Fadden

snowy cemetary

It was Christmas morning and it was snowing hard. The kids were excited as they opened presents. The wrapping paper was flying faster than the snow flakes and the house was full of excitement. Every few moments you would hear a wow or a gasp as Amelia, James or Ethan opened a gift they had longed to receive. The smell of Crème Brulee French toast, home fries, and sausage permeated the air as the food cooked in the oven. It was a festive and wonderful atmosphere and a great moment for the family.

After the presents were opened and we finished a delicious breakfast, it was time to clean up and prepare for Christmas dinner. My sisters and their families were arriving at 2 pm so there was a lot of work to be done. It is always great to have the family over!

I pulled on my boots and put on my winter coat (no snow suit) and trudged outside to snow-blow and shovel the driveway so that our guests had a place to park. The rest of the family was busy inside cleaning and bringing their Christmas booty up to their rooms. I finished the driveway at about 10:45 am and made my way back into the house. I shook off the snow and remembered something that I had to do — visit my mom and dad’s grave.

The clock was now approaching 11 and there was still so much work to be done. I was conflicted. Should I leave to visit my parent’s grave, or stay and finish the work to prepare for the arrival of my sisters and their families? It did not take long to make a decision; I chose to visit the grave. My sisters would understand if we started later and I felt the need to go.

I went out and pushed the snow off of the Ford Edge that my dad had left for James and prepared to leave when James came running out. In a breathless voice he told me he wanted to visit the grave as well, and he also wanted to drive. I knew that it would take longer if James drove, but he is taking his road test this Friday, so I thought I might as well let him practice. We got in the car, started it and then James just sat there. I waited about 30 seconds and said, “We really need to get going.” He smiled and replied, “Ethan wants to go.” How could I say no? A 16 year old and 12 year old were willing to leave their presents behind to visit the grave of their grandparents who had meant so much to them.

Ethan finally got into the car with a box filled with LEGOs (smart kid) and off we went. It was now 11:30. The roads were slippery and this was the first time James had driven in the snow, so I was a bit nervous. OK — I was a lot nervous. He did great.

At 12:05, we arrived at the cemetery and were all quickly dismayed. The cemetery had not been plowed! There was 4 to 5 inches of slippery snow blanketing the cemetery roads. This cemetery is very big and very hilly. My parents are buried in the back, so we had a dilemma. It would take too long to walk to the graves, so we would either have to turn back or take a chance and drive through the snow. Well, we 3 boys in the car chose probably the least intelligent idea and decided to press forward. If we got stuck in the cemetery our Christmas dinner would certainly be ruined and I would be in hot water. But we pressed on. James slowly navigated through the snow. You could hear the crunching of the snow under the tires as we rolled through the streets. We would go up hills and then down but the Ford was making it through. We parked on top of a hill and walked the 100 yards through the snow to the grave. We prayed and talked and then made our way back to the car and to begin our journey out of the cemetary.

We had just about made it to the gate when another car entered. James had to stop on the hill we were climbing. They backed up to let us out but I knew immediately from the sound that we were stuck. The tires spun and we didn’t move. I replaced James and backed up and then tried to move forward, but had the same result. Visions of a ruined Christmas dinner danced in my head! I went back even further up on to the hilly part of the road to get a running start and this time it worked. Out we went, our mission complete. A mile up the road I pulled over and James took over the driving duties. It was now 12:45.

We got to the highway when the phone rang. “Where are you?” Shirley said. I could hear the anxiety in her voice. “We are on our way home,” I replied. I knew she was a bit stressed about the dinner. We got home a 1:20. We jumped out of the car and scurried into the house. I have to admit that my boys were impressive. They asked their mother what they should do and got right to it. At this point Amelia came downstairs and was not happy. Turns out we had left without her. Not smart! She asked if she could take my car to go visit the grave. I replied that it was 1:35 and we had guests coming over. She was adamant and said this was more important, and she was right. She had been gone 5 minutes when I remembered that the cemetery had not been plowed and there was no way she would make it through the snow in my car. I called her and she turned around and decided to visit later.

My sisters arrived and everything was ready. Shirley had done her work and the boys and Amelia worked very hard to help. We had a wonderful time with many laughs and stories. There are times in our life when we need to remember the important things in life. First and foremost is family and honoring those with us and those who have passed away. We can always start a dinner later but we can never replace a Christmas day visit to those we love. I am thankful I have a family that understands this.

Merry Christmas!


For Those Missing at Christmas