There are two times of year where I miss my Dad the MOST: Christmas and branding day. Christmas and branding also happen to be my favorite two days of the year. I want to take a second to talk about Christmas after you’ve lost a loved one. There is an empty chair. Does someone sit in it? Do you put their stocking up? Forever, or just at first? Do you fill it? For a million years we got Dad those little Tootsie Roll piggy bank things. It’s nearly impossible for me to go down the Christmas candy isle and not want to put one in my cart. The family traditions that just don’t seem the same. I have not sat down to play a game of pinochle with my family since the last time Dad and I played (and likely won 😉). That first time I wrote “To: Mom and …..”, woops, I guess just Mom. This is my third Christmas without Dad, and I have to say that the answers to those questions and all the other questions are not always easy. In fact, some of them, especially the stocking one, brings me a level of sadness that has tears streaming down my face and a hollow spot in my stomach. But this year, finally, I have gained a new perspective. Do what makes you happy. Simple as that. Does it make me happy to leave a chair empty? No, it doesn’t. So sit in it. Does it make me happy to have Dad’s stocking up? Yes, absolutely. So put it up and fill it with notes and memories (thanks for that idea, Mom!). Does it make me happy to play pinochle? Yes, so play and smile knowing that he’s watching (and likely critiquing 😉). My point is, even though it’s easy to let sadness creep in to try to steel the joy of the season, it’s because of the great moments and happy traditions that you feel a sadness in remembering your loved one. And that is a good thing. I let myself be sad. But I know that I am sad because I miss him, and I know that I miss him because he gave me so many great memories. So if you are asking yourself these same questions, the answer is do whatever gives you peace. Do whatever helps you keep their memory alive. But don’t be afraid to feel your feelings, even if they are pain and sadness. Just feel them. And know they exist because God once gave you a moment in life that was so wonderful with that person, that you have made it a memory to cherish forever. Merry Christmas. All my love to you.