Christmas 2015 was about remembering the connections that enrich our lives.
We spent Christmas Eve at a warm and happy dinner party at my cousin’s home, with some of her friends, where we feasted on a Portuguese dinner of abundance with a total of six different fish (scallops, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams and cod) and shared stories of our family trip this summer to our ancestral home of Sao Miguel, in the Azores. Later that night, I watched the full moon rise over our campground, bathing the palms in a silvery light that mimicked a light dusting of snow, and turning the inside of T2 into a cool, luminous little aluminum cocoon.
Christmas morning, we opened presents in the early morning light of T2 as we listened to a Christmas concert broadcast on TV. I love hearing the music from this season. A couple of days ago, my sister had written a beautiful piece about singing carols with my Dad which connected me to the memory of hearing his lovely tenor voice and my sisters harmonizing, on Christmases past. This is the second Christmas without him and the memories, along with the loss, live on.
Then, we took a short drive to the Sarasota National Cemetery where we visited the grave of my godfather, Jack, my Dad’s older brother. I had been to this national cemetery once before with my cousin, his daughter, so while I knew where it was, there is now an entire new section of veterans buried here. Each headstone was decorated with a Balsam wreath, tied simply with a red velvet bow. I watched as families came to pay their respects – from the very elderly with walkers and canes and even a wheelchair, to young families – and I wondered about their stories, and the stories of the ones they had loved and came to visit on this lovely Florida Christmas Day. It was a serene, beautiful, and powerful connection to each of these families, and to my gratitude for all these men and women, who we were all here to remember.
From the bench in the sunlit cemetery, we called family up north, and heard about the grandkids favorite presents, and their parents’ plans for the rest of the day and holiday week. We loved the phone connection since we could hear the voices of those we love, over the hundreds of miles that keep us apart. We even connected online to my nephew in Chile who had sent a video holiday greeting we got to watch.
The took a bike ride along the Legacy Trail, working hard in the heat of the warm afternoon and connected with some of our fellow travelers. We passed little ones on brand new bikes, one with red silver streamers, and another one with training wheels, which Santa must have dropped off that morning under the tree. A young girl was tentatively trying out a new set of rollerblades. A young couple, riding on new bikes, were laughing and chatting and joyful in their holiday exuberance.
We had a lovely dinner back home and then watched one of two favorite holiday movies, Love Actually, and made a virtual connection with the people we had watched it with over the years, in a shared network of family and friends that continue to enrich us.
It was a Christmas unlike any other we had shared and what we are learning on this pilgrimage is that we can learn to see with new eyes. We are continuing to be stretched into a new experience of loving the life we have been given. To paraphrase Richard Rohr, love has to be worked toward, received, and enjoyed, first of all by recognizing our deep capacity for fear of the unknown and the new.
We send warmest holiday wishes to you all.
Liz and Peter continue their pilgrimage to here, celebrating Christmas on the road near Sarasota, as they continue their travels in their Airstream.