A Lasting Memory of Christmas Past

I had kissed Abby and David “good night” and was started back down the stairs, when I stopped at the top riser and paused before heading downstairs. The scene laid out below me, in the living room, was what we often lovingly refer to as “Christmas has thrown up all over our house.” I would like nothing more than to say it’s my wife who over-indulges in Christmas, but that would be disingenuous. Between the two of us, we’ve acquired a beyond healthy amount of Christmas stuff.

Every year, we dutifully adorn our house. The scene below me that night was full of lights and Christmas magic and wonder. It struck me that I was a very fortunate man; I had a loving wife, two greats kids, and I have been able to give my kids the kind of loving and warm family upbringing I was lucky to have had. I just had to share this special moment. I went back to David’s door, and motioned for him to join me. His 9-year-old eyes sparked with excitement as I motioned for him to be very quiet, so that we don’t bother Abby, and to follow me.

He snuck out of his room and followed me out onto the upstairs landing. I was already laying on my belly, peering out through the wrought iron railing, and down into the living room. David crawled up next to me, giggling. Christmas music floated through the air effortlessly.

“Come take a look,” I said.

He scratched over to the railing and looked through. A big smile came over his face. David always “got it.”

“When I was a kid, I used to love just sitting and looking at the lights, and listening to Christmas music,” I told him. “It means a lot to me, to know I’m passing on these kinds of traditions to you and Abby.”

We both lay there, soaking in the glow. I know, for me, glorious memories of holidays past raced through my mind. I assume they must have been for David as well because he rolled on his side and asked me, “What was the best present you ever got for Christmas?”

I smiled and said without hesitation, “My Krazy Kar Christmas.” I then spent the next 5-10 minutes sharing with David the story of the Krazy Kar and why I loved it so much. It was one of those really personal stories that kids love because they get to see that once, a very long time ago, we were kind of alike. Life never gets better than that kind of moment. We had a great Christmas that year.

The next year, that moment was all I could think about as we unpacked the boxes and decorated the house. David had died suddenly just before Halloween, and here we were, staring straight at the Christmas juggernaut. Leslie and I were determined that for ourselves, and for Abby, David’s death was bad enough; we did not want it to destroy our entire lives.

For us, that meant honoring traditions that we knew defined who we were. So we did. We decked the house out just as normal. It was a challenge. Sadness, love, anger, love, frustration, love. It was a very tumultuous holiday. But along the way, we also laughed. We told stories about David. It was an important holiday, because we were beginning to form our lives A.D. (After David). It was the beginning of the realization, which still draws clearer every year, that David is always going to be a part of our family, and that memories of David at Christmas have now become part of the holiday glow.

When I sit among holiday adornments now, yes, there is a sad glow that is always present for missing David in the here and now, but when the glorious memories of holidays past race through my mind today, there is a giant piece of that glow that is David. And for me, the first memory that brings warmth to my soul, is telling David about my Krazy Kar.

Be good to you this year. Peace, Light, and Laughter. Happy Holidays.

 

 

Bart Sumner

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Bart Sumner is an actor, screenwriter, and improvisational comedy teacher and performer currently living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife Leslie, daughter Abby, and two dogs. Originally from Union County New Jersey, he is a graduate of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey with a BA in Theatre Arts. He spent over 20 years chasing the Hollywood dream in Southern California. He is a proud member of The Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and has performed in films, television, musical theatre and some of the most prestigious comedy clubs in America. He is also a produced screenwriter and television writer. His son, David, died in 2009 from a severe brain injury suffered while playing football. He is the founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit HEALING IMPROV, which provides no-cost Comedy Improv Grief Workshops to people struggling with finding the road forward after loss. Since beginning his work to help others find a path forward through grief, he has spoken and presented nationally on the subject of grief with The Compassionate Friends USA and the Bereaved Parents of the USA. He authored the book HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER, which shares his own grief journey and details how Healing Improv Workshops work while sharing some of the improv exercises used in the workshops. He has been a contributing writer for www.TheGriefToolbox.com and www.HelloGrief.com as well as writing the blog "My Stories From The Grief Journey" at the Healing Improv website. He enjoys pizza and making people laugh.

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