Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family: Gold, Frankensense, and Myrrh

Written in Memory of my dad, James Edward Brown - April 9, 1934-December 24, 2014
This week, many of us will eat, laugh, and exchange gifts with family, and I'm willing to bet most of you have a family like mine who are like-minded and agree with each other 100% of the time. Whose family is like this? Anybody? I didn't think so.   

As a child, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were not only about the manger and Santa Claus, they were about family, and anxiously waiting for the annual tradition of Christmas Eve with my dad's family, the Brown's, and then my mom's family, the Kings.

Growing up, my sister and I had four Brown cousins who were more like siblings.  At Grandmother and Granddaddy Brown's house, or Aunt Glenda's or Aunt Gladys' homes, or our own house, we played loudly, ate whatever we wanted (including the traditional Jane Parker fruit cake), and waited for what seemed like hours for the big secret to be revealed. WHO drew our names? And, what gift did they choose for us? Grandmother Brown knitted and crocheted; what did she make for us this year? The night progressed with wrapping paper flying, screams of "THANK YOU I LOVE IT," show and tell of presents beginning with the youngest, and more playing, running and laughing. Heaven forbid if we did or said anything bad. "You better say 'Sorry Santa.'" "Ok, Sorry Santa," because what if he saw or heard on Christmas Eve? We couldn't possibly risk that.  The night ended outside searching the sky for lights from Santa's sleigh.

Later on Christmas Eve or sometimes on Christmas Day, we made our way to my Grandmother King and Daddy Luke's beautiful home for more family fun with two more cousins we couldn't wait to see.  It was slightly less chaotic, but still fun.  My grandmother King was a wonderful cook and a gracious hostess who made each of us feel so special.  Daddy Luke served egg nog in crystal glasses, and both of them had wonderful stories to share and gifts to give.

As a child, my family was perfect, and no one could take their place.  Show and tell, "sorry Santa," and looking for sleigh lights faded with the decades, but we still read Luke 2:1-15 on Christmas Eve with the Brown family and eat whatever we want, expect now it's King fruit cake instead of Jane Parker.  On Christmas Day, I eat, laugh and play "dirty Santa" with my wonderful Glymph family.  And my King cousins and uncle and aunt visit during the holidays for more eating, laughing, and story-telling.   

"When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."  Matthew 2:10-11

The Magi traveled months, maybe years, in search of a king bearing gifts worthy of deity.  Of great value then and now, gold was a symbol of kingship on earth: the birthday of a King. Family was not just of great value to me when, as a child, I thought we were perfect. Even now that we don't see each other as often, it's of great value, providing me with history and traditions, both old and new.  My grandparents' strengths and weaknesses live with each family member while we continue life.

Not only was the perfume, Frankincense, a symbol of deity, it was also symbolic of God's willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. I can't think of more greater or difficult sacrifices than the ones we make for our family. Knowing each other the longest, we're familiar and see and deal with each others' flaws.

Decades ago, I watched Rudolph and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Today, I enjoy Christmas movies about real families with real problems who find ways to cope and continue traditions.  As hard as Clark Griswold tries, cousin Eddie, Aunt Bethany, and Uncle Lewis test him until he's ready to send them home. As dedicated a son, father, and husband as George Bailey is, the honorable life of his brother Harry and his absentminded Uncle Billy are straws that almost break his back.  Can you imagine being Emily Hobbs? Your workaholic husband reveals he has a love child who's an ELF?  Or Scott Calvin whose son doesn't even want to spend Christmas Eve with him. Then, there's poor Ralphie who wishes his Aunt Clara knew he was a boy.

Sometimes when families are together, there's a nice aroma of fellowship and fun, but every family has a cousin Eddie, Aunt Clara, Uncle Billy ( I left my purse at a restaurant tonight and also misplaced a gift card), or Walter Hobbs and Scott Calvin.

Hope & Glenda 1996
Myrrh, an embalming oil and symbol of death, also symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction; thus, Jesus would grow to suffer greatly.  All relationships have potential for bitterness, and every family member we love will eventually suffer.  We rarely know when family members will have their last Christmas with us, and each year after feels different.  I miss my Daddy Luke's egg nog, my grandmother King's stories, my Aunt Glenda's Russian tea mix, my Grandmother Brown's crocheted gifts, and my mother-in-law's (Reba Glymph) useful and unique gifts stored neatly in a large white gift bag. These traditions made the holiday special in the past, yet the celebrations are still very special because I celebrate the birth of a Savior with family.

I enjoy and laugh with the same cousins who waited anxiously for Santa.  No matter how absentminded or impatient I am, I have aunts, uncles, a sister, and two parents who love me.* Even though they make fun of me, I have a great time with my children.  I have the best husband and because of him, an incredible Glymph family with sisters and brothers in-law and nieces and nephews and Papa.  We have years of old traditions to continue and new traditions to make.

Merry Christmas,


* A big spirit was missing this Christmas.
My parents have had a difficult two years, so I had a feeling this would be my dad's last Christmas Eve.  His last Christmas Eve was last year, 2013. My dad died of a heart attack early in the morning December 24, 2014.  One of the reasons I looked forward to Christmas Eve was my dad's love of family and tradition. He was a big man with a bigger spirit who LOVED not only celebrating his Savior at Christmas but also his family.

We didn't have our Brown family Christmas Eve, but I imagined him walking through my front door with gifts to exchange and food.  He had made sure my sister bought boiled shrimp for his oldest grandson, Luke.  In the past, he gave each female Brown a box of chocolate covered cherries (I usually ate my box in one day).  When we had babies, Dad was the one who held them the most often.  He loved Christmas trees and all the decorations. I knew he would like my tree and the wreath I made. I pictured him seeing it. I imagined him telling stories, smiling the biggest smile because his family was together. 

Since he was the family patriarch, a role he took very seriously, he would pray before our meal. He would delight over the desserts. He would laugh the loudest.  I looked in the living room and pictured him sitting on the sofa while I cleaned up; he would tell me everything that happened and everything that was said as if I had just walked in and missed the entire party. He would wish things were like they used to be. He would be worried if he thought someone had a problem.  He would miss having little ones running around. He would leave tired but happy.

Christmas Day, he would come over for breakfast. I couldn't wait to show him the Disney photo album Santa brought David.  He would want to look at it over and over and comment on each picture.  He's in many pictures grinning from ear to ear like a big ole kid.  When I filled my plate with breakfast casserole (made by a special friend) and muffins, I imagined filling his plate, too.  We usually had pastries and bacon, and sometimes I made pancakes.  "Dad, we have bacon and coffee cake and pancakes." "I'll have some of all of it." I use my Christmas dishes, and he always liked that.  In a Christmas mug, he took his coffee with sugar.  I imagined him at the table with me eating and talking about Christmas.  

Then, we would exchange gifts.  Mom would open what Dad told me to buy her.  This year, he was going to give me money, but he saw me in a new skirt and sweater two Sundays ago and said, "I love that skirt.  That's what I want to give you for Christmas.  Wrap that up for me."  That makes me smile thinking about it.  I couldn't find another skirt like it, so I bought a different sweater to wear with it and couldn't wait to wear it to church and say, "thanks for the new outfit."  My kids would take their annual Christmas picture with Mom and Dad on the sofa.

He would look forward to the King Christmas and seeing more nieces and nephews, hearing about their lives, eating more goodies, and laughing the loudest.  We did have our King Christmas on Sunday afternoon. On Friday (family visitation) and Saturday (his funeral),his family and friends said goodbye and honored him. Christmas without him along with being around the people he loved so much made me realize and mourn his tremendous spirit. No one loved Christmas, friends, his church, or family more than my dad.  He would have hugged the longest, smiled the biggest, laughed the loudest, and been the proudest of all this Christmas.

Because of the Savior he loved, there will always be a reason to celebrate Christmas. But a Christmas spirit as tremendous as my dad's will always be missed.