Merry Christmas everyone. Below is my latest column that appeared in the Pittston Sunday Dispatch.
by: Joe Leonardi
Christmas is, as the song states; “The most wonderful time of the year.” It is so wonderful, that I was thrilled when one of the local radio stations started playing Christmas music early in November. The pop music stars turned carolers joyous melodious tunes help set the mood for the upcoming holiday season.
I simply can not comprehend why people continuously, curmudgeonly complain that we are starting the holiday season too early. Christmas is the one time of year when people go out of their way to be nicer to one another. It is the time of year when people wish each other well and sincerely mean it. It is the time of year when we give of ourselves for no other reason simply than to give.
Christmas, less importantly, is also a time for receiving. We receive presents, we receive good will and we receive blessings.
I only desire two Christmas presents. One I truly hope to get — actually it is not for me, it is for someone I deeply love and care for — I want her to receive something special for Christmas. Unfortunately, it is nothing I can purchase, provide nor deliver. It is something completely out of my hands, so I do the one thing that I can — I pray.
The other gift is one I know I will never receive. However, because Ed Ackerman graciously allows me to write for the Dispatch from time to time, I hope to turn my education through experience into a gift I convey to others…
My parents passed away almost one year to the day apart from one another. My dad suffered from a long illness and while his passing was expected, I was still caught off guard. I will never forget being summoned to my parents’ house in the early morning hours of January 30, 2006. It was the call I had been dreading. I arrived shortly after getting off the phone. My dad seemed to be struggling, but after about an hour he calmed and the bad episode seemed behind us. So confident I was that he would be okay, I gave him a quick kiss and departed. I went home with the intent of returning on my way to the office. Unfortunately, he was gone shortly after I left.
My mom’s passing on the other hand was completely unexpected. She had an apparently successful surgery. On the following day I was at the hospital visiting. She was doing fine. We were chatting and joking. All was well. I left her at about 8:30 that night. I kissed her gently on the forehead and went home. My sister called me about an hour later telling me to come back to the hospital. My mother had some type of coronary episode — the awful scenario, the same one that played out less than one year earlier, repeated itself on January 11, 2007 — my mom was gone before I made it back to the hospital.
In both cases:
I never said good bye.
I expected to see them again.
I was certain there was more time.
My ultimate Christmas gift would be to have five more minutes with each of them. I want nothing more than to say “good bye,” to kiss them one last time and most importantly to hug them; to transfer through the power of my embrace the love I have for my mom and dad.
It is a present I know I will never receive, but as the holiest of days approaches, I would like to turn my loss into a gift for others and pass on a lesson learned…
Take everyday with those you love and never forget to:
Tell them you love them.
Most importantly, hug them. Hold them close. Hold them tight. When you feel you have held them long enough — hang on one moment more.