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A Christmas card from Tennessee

Today Im sending you a greeting card of sorts from here in Knoxville. As with all communications, I hope this one finds you well and happy. I hope you are where you want to be in your seasonal plans and schedule and are joyfully celebrating this most wondrous time of the year. I will shop this week. I do not like to be overly prepared for Christmas. Something in the last minute search and ensuing panic suits me just fine.

I've done it the other way in the past and found the last days of countdown time to be empty and boring. I like the crowds, the confusion, and the grouchy clerks. I enjoy the off-the-wall purchases made in desperation that turn out to be just right for a particular person. It's all part of the red and green of Christmas to me.

Last night was the Christmas Cantata at church. It was wonderfully scattered with miscues and sound problems. Those made it all the more real. Christmas dinner has been planned and re-planned. That's the last shopping I'll do. The menu is still in the heavy alterations stage. It grows each day. And so this Christmas of 2001 is well underway.

As we celebrate this year, Americans have new and different thoughts. Peace on earth has more meaning for there is so little of it around this year. We were caught unawares in September as the unspeakable happened within our borders. Expectations for the New Year have changed. There is a different focus in our land. Our world has been eternally altered. Homeland security is now a common phrase and constant concern.

But we are a stalwart people and we will persevere.

Our joy and goodwill have not been squelched. They may be a little subdued just now, but they still are aglow. If all those people in New York and Washington can smile, then so can we.

In my own family there is a somber note in this season. Last week my children's father passed away. It was unexpected and jarring. And in his passing I learned too late of some important parenting that I did not do. I made sure that my children were taught compassion, honesty, and fairness. They were taught to play sports, to work hard in school, to be mannerly. Their father taught them about fun and laughter and doing right. They were taught to live life with gusto.

But during all those years of their growing up, they were never prepared for the "taking care of business" side of losing someone important in their lives.

They were not coached in how to be the adult children who had to make decisions and arrangements. They were not told that someday they would have to shoulder that responsibility, and that they would have to do it alone. But it happened.

I hope all you parents who read this will see that your children are not put in a similar situation. I cannot go back in time. There is no re-do, but you can see that you don't share in the same mistake.

When there is such a devastating loss, children should be free to grieve, to deal with their emotions. Practicalities should be secondary. It's too late for me to remedy my lack of preparing them for all this.

Sadly, it's another "should have" on a list that is becoming a little too long. But this one is written in bold capital letters. Please take note of it. Do whatever you can to spare your children this ordeal.

Loss is painful enough for them without the confusion of not knowing what to do. I hope you see this entry on my hindsight list so that it never shows up on yours.

May the joy of the season warm your hearts and homes. Merry Christmas to you all.

For questions or comments, email me at: cmcginty@volexpress.com.