Nearly 40 years ago, I married one of my best friends. We were poor orphan kids living in a back cottage on Normal Avenue without a refrigerator, so we buried food in the snow and kept ice cubes on the window sill. I guess you could say we were 99 percenters by today's standards, but our ignorance was bliss. Ray and I never held an empty glass.
After every long work day, we took a bus to the disco clubs, shared a drink, danced till dawn and staggered home in the night marveling at the moon and laughing at the stars. Our clothing came from Allentown thrift stores as we created new trends via '50s grease and Army-Navy chic in sexy khakis and camos. One night Ray draped me in our sunbeam-yellow kitchen curtains and convinced everyone it was a von Furstenberg wrap -- Empress dressing.
Christmas was a wonderland piled with gifts we couldn't afford wrapped under a big, white tree he found in the trash one spring. After Christmas Day, we filled it with balloons and paper streamers for New Year's Eve and threw a party that lasted till March. Giving up Christmas was tough for a man who was the spirit of the season.
Every year he gave me all he could and made joy ring in my ears. Ray knew his life was short and reminded me often that a grave premonition would surely come to pass as he had dreamt. He comforted me in constant preparation. So it didn't surprise me that after many battles with his health -- cancer would take him at Christmastime.
Now, most of you would cancel Christmas, damn the New Year and vilify Valentine's Day after losing so much love. Unless of course you believed like a child, like Ray did, that love is never lost and we never lose in loving.
Before he died, Ray gave me a book -- some old, dusty thing from the corner antique store titled "What is Death?" It was published in 1917 by a spiritualist minister who recorded letters from the other side to convince the world that eternity is true and we are all but a veil away from those we grieve unnecessarily. It was handed to Ray to make me see through his wise and innocent eyes.
If we could wrap our hearts around forever and know that we choose our whole lives as disincarnate souls before birth -- would it make a difference?
If choosing Christmas could make the ones you love listen closer to carols and linger longer at "Auld Lang Syne," would you die on your favorite day? Ray did.
There's plenty of logic killing Christmas lately. No holiday music allowed in the workplace. No Christmas carols sung in school. The generic seasonal movement excludes the magic of our human hearts.
It is a societal abomination leaving generations of kids without the angelic splendor of standing in a school choir immersed in the voices of Handel's "Messiah" and the passion of "Gloria." "O' Christmas Tree" is never sweeter from tiny tots in off-key unison dressed in garland and lights. We will all miss this.
To celebrate life, conquer death. Be Christmas. Haul out the holly every year and feel the joy of getting out of yourself -- out of your misery -- out of the darkness. We all need a little Christmas to remind us of miracles, restore our faith or bring us closer to the truth. To deny happiness, we deny our humanity.
Khimm Graham, who lives in West Seneca, loves to celebrate Christmas.