By Iris Buczkowski
I love the Christmas holiday season! To me, it truly is the most magical time of the year. I love the spirit of giving, the time with my family and friends, the kindness of strangers, and all of the traditions that I’ve acquired over the years. This year, like many families though, I am more than a bit sad because going into this holiday season, about six weeks ago, I lost my beloved grandmother. Our holidays are not going to be the same without her and nothing can replace losing the matriarch of your family and how the traditions may suddenly change or just not feel the same as they used to.
Without a doubt there are so many people who experience this in life. I see it every day in the newspaper as I read the obituaries. Yes, it sounds morbid, but I do read the obituaries. As a financial advisor I sometimes find surprises in there. While most of the time I am one of the first calls my clients will make when someone passes away, there are a few surprises or extended family situations where I hear of sad news in real time like the rest of the world – the old-fashioned way of reading it in print. In all the times I’ve read about amazing lives lost the time of year, I’ve never been a participant in the club of holiday-uncheer-because-I-am-sad-too-this-year. It’s definitely not a membership I will be signing up for!
A large part of my practice is to make sure that my client’s estate planning affairs are in order. I often feel like the Grim Reaper when I bring up the “do you have your will done” conversation. You should see the looks I get. They can range from laughter from younger people who think they are invincible, to embarrassment from some who have a hard time admitting it is a very difficult concept for them, to those who can say yes and smile because they have given their families the greatest gift of all – directives on how to manage the life they created when they are gone.
Now I realize this sounds somewhat cliché – a gift in death? By having my will done? Putting my wishes on real paper and not the back of a napkin? I promise you I do not live under a dark cloud! But this is a real thing and I have seen both sides of it. And now, having lived through it first hand I can attest to the difference it makes for your loved ones. My Gram was ill for a while, but at the end her illness accelerated and her health deteriorated quickly, and her needs and care grew exponentially with all of that. My family didn’t have to worry about details and things they didn’t have time to focus on, because the plan was already done. There was no discussion of money or who was handling what. Her directives were all in place – Gram knew exactly what she wanted. And with all of that planning done we were able to focus on what mattered most, which was Gram’s care at the end and how to make her last days on earth peaceful. I will forever be grateful for the lack of chaos we didn’t have to endure. That was her last gift to us, and you will not regret making it yours.
I’ve had so many happy moments among the sad ones because, yes, I am a normal grieving person. But I believe the human spirit is resilient and we, as a family, are choosing to honor my grandmother in the many traditions she gave us. She wouldn’t want it any other way. With changes in life come changes in those traditions though and as I entered this holiday season knowing it was going to be different, I thought why not create a new tradition? My kids love the excitement and, to me, it is through their cheer that the holidays truly come to life. I’m not quite sure what the new thing will be, but we will figure it out along the way. We will still be baking Gram’s ginger cream cookies (a family favorite!) and some of us will continue to gather on Christmas Eve, but the thought of creating something new lights a spark within my soul and brings twinkles into my children’s eyes. It’s exciting! If you have lost a loved one this time of year, what legacy will you continue or new traditions will you do? These can be lasting, great gifts too!
Gram’s Famous Ginger Creams
Yields 2 dozen
Mix together the following ingredients in a mixing bowl:
¼ c. shortening
½ c. sugar
½ c. molasses
After well mixed add ½ c. water to the bowl and stir well.
Add the following ingredients and mix until the dough is smooth (the dough will be moist and sticky):
2 c. flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
Chill dough for at least 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Drop by rounded teaspoon, 2 inches apart, on greased cookie sheet and bake for 7 – 8 minutes. Frost! (cream cheese frosting is the best!)