UNITED STATES—We have all heard the saying that family is the most important thing in life, but how many of us actually live up to that assertion? Not many because we don’t consider family as important until they are no longer in existence. This year has been tough, and I tell people all the time death tends to have ripple effects on one’s life that you never imagined. I mean both my grandmother and aunt passed away less than 3 months ago, within 6 weeks apart. It was like my family was dealt a devastating blow on top of another devastating blow.

I’ve never really spent Christmas with my father for as long as I can recall. When my parents were married which is nearly 3 decades ago, we spent Christmas together when we were kids, but I can only recall 3-4 years of that transpiring because I was so young. To spend the 2017 holiday with my dad and his family was interesting, because I’ve come so accustomed to spending time with my mom’s side of the family. What did I learn? 1) Food brings everyone together 2) Games are always fun 3) Sports is a must 4) Laughter makes everything better. We played games similar to everyone else. Rather it’s the exchange of gifts or a fun game we played where you had to open a gift utilizing only OVEN MITTENS, you get people chatting you get people laughing and the rest is history. We all love food, and we had plenty of it, perhaps more than you expected, which is always a great thing if you ask me. You can never have too much food when it comes to family people, you really can’t.

I like to consider myself Santa when it comes to Christmas because I love the notion of dropping off gifts and seeing the reactions on people’s faces. Do I go a bit overboard at times, without a doubt, but what can you do, I have a big giving heart so it is what it is. All this time when gifts are being opened, it’s the memories that stick with me. Seeing the laughs, the smiles, the excitement and the pure joy I get inside realizing that I put a smile on their face. I like to see people happy and the thought of getting a gift or two is nice, but it really doesn’t matter to me that much.

That might be because I’m much older and wiser nowadays, which is probably true, but at the same time, I understand more and more the importance of family. For some, I know this is a tough time if loved ones are no longer in one’s presence, but at the same time, that means you have to stay close to those friends and family that you still have living on this Earth. I’m a firm believer that forgiveness is important and for some that is NOT the easiest pill to swallow, but it is indeed important.

Betrayal is something many people have difficulty forgiving and trust me I completely understand and grasp that concept, especially when the person who betrayed you is family, but try to come to some sort of agreement to at least be cordial or at least forgive so that resentment isn’t haunting you or causing you to be stressed or negative.

The memories that you create now are the stories that you will be able to tell for years to your kids, and your kids children, and if you are lucky to your kids, kids kids. They may not totally get it right away, but trust me these are tales you’ll love to hear from family. I mean I’ve heard some tales about my excitement and giddiness opening gifts on Christmas Day and some of the things I learned were shocking. I mean I just heard a story this week about a Christmas where I was quite ill and I didn’t wake up till like 10 a.m. That is unheard of for someone who normally rushed down the stairs by 5 a.m. most Christmas mornings as a kid. Its memories like that where I appreciate family more and more each day.