Driving around on Christmas Eve, listening to the usual bevvy of Christmas songs, the ever-cheery “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” by Elmo and Patsy came on the radio. To refresh your memory, the refrain is:
“Grandma got run over by a reindeer, walking home from our house Christmas Eve. You can say there’s no such thing as Santa, but as for me and Grandpa we believe.”
So the song’s story has a death at Christmas time – Christmas Day to boot. In spite of Grandma’s untimely end, Grandpa is “taking this so well. See him in there watching football, drinking beer and playing cards with Cousin Mel.” Didn’t Grandpa miss the fact that she wasn’t in bed with him Christmas Eve? And the family just can’t help but wonder, “should we open up her gifts or send them back?”
Okay, we all know this is a parody and a send-up… Right? Christmas and the traditions that accompany it make the loss of a family member that much more painful at this time of year.
Earlier this week, I spoke to a woman at a holiday party whose 56-year-old son died of a heart attack on Christmas Day last year. She and her daughter-in-law were going out of town for the holiday and doing something completely different. It seems to me this is a healthy response – to strike out in a new direction on a tradition-laden day when a loved one is no longer present. It recognizes the “new normal” that all families face as they go through mourning, processing grief as time passes.
Then again, some may argue for keeping traditions and having a photo of the loved one prominently displayed at the gathering. This is an option that acknowledges the person’s passing while continuing to observe a family’s annual events.
Anyone want to share their thoughts on the topic? Other than “They should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.”