It’s perhaps at Christmastime we most often think of family and friends. Christmas songs such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and others speak of the longing to be together for the holidays. Even if ours is not a pleasant remembrance of family and time together, there is something within the human spirit that longs for connection with other people. We may try to deny the need for close relationships, but it’s hardwired into our very beings. We weren’t made to be alone.

As the years pile up and one gets closer to the end than the beginning, this desire, this longing for connection and reconnection grows stronger and more acute. It’s what prompted me to write this, because I’m feeling it more and more with the passing time. My wife Rita and I have made so many friends in many places over the years, most of whom we haven’t seen in a very long time, other perhaps not so long but still too long. I find myself thinking of old friends and acquaintances and wondering about them, wishing for a little more time to catch up and be together once again.

Family is much the same way. I am now the oldest member of the oldest generation in our family, which makes me the Patriarch (despite the negative connotations attached to it by the feminists and anti-male/anti-authoritarian factions, the role holds an important place in the family structure). When we were children, my grandparents on both sides of the family were the glue that held the family together. When they were gone, the family sort of splintered, and we all went our separate ways. It wasn’t a hostile separation; we just had our own lives to live, without the presence of Grandpa and Grandma to bind us together. Only in the past few years have we been able to make an effort to spend time with one another. The question in my mind now is this: is it my turn to fill that role, to do what I can to provide the opportunity and “glue” to help my family not lose those connections? (I can sort of hear the laughter of my siblings and children at this point, thinking my self-importance has spilled out of control once again)

That’s how important connection is to me. I’ve done enough traveling for its own sake, seen enough places to satisfy. I’ve probably gotten rid of more “stuff” than I currently own, and I still have too much of it. After I’m gone it will all become someone else’s problem. But the love and laughter of family and friends you get to keep forever. It doesn’t take up space except in your heart, memory and soul, it really doesn’t cost you anything compared to its priceless value. But it does require some maintenance, otherwise it tends to wither and die, and with it a part of you. It’s a little like exercise: you have to keep working at it for it to do you any good.

I wish all of you, family, friends, brothers and sister in the faith, the most joyous of Christmases. I love you and wish we could be together but know that you all have a special place in my heart. I pray you won’t neglect the opportunity to connect or reconnect with those who hold that place in your heart when it arises but will make the most of the moment. It is the most precious gift we can hope to share with one another.

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