As Christmas Approaches, Be a Light! Make Memories!

As Christmas Approaches, Be a Light! Make Memories!


Yesterday, we all grieved the loss of a true gentleman in President George H.W. Bush. He was a humble man of great character. At one point, somebody commented that President Bush believed in “Faith, Family and Friends.”

While the world was engrossed in remembering this great man, my family was doing our own recollecting of a great man. Yesterday was also the sixth anniversary of my dad’s – Wally Heilman – passing into eternal life.

Dad’s motto was very similar to President Bush’s, only dad added one word: “Faith, Family, Friends and Fun.” The kind of “fun” dad believed in was not self-indulgent. No. It was dad’s word to describe our primary mission to bring joy into other people’s lives. Dad was totally dedicated to this. Everyone who knew him, knew this.

Here was a beautiful reflection from one of my nieces; one of dad’s grandchildren:

“I keep a pic of me and grandpa dancing at my wedding right in my line of sight at work to remind me to always stay positive and no matter how hard things get … you can get through it and still smile and dance and love and have fun. He lost his wife, his sight, his business, his house, a son… yet, he never lost the spring in his step, never lost his zest for life and remained grateful for all his blessings.”

Whatever it was … a sermon he heard, a bible passage he read, a person he admired … whatever it was, something happened to my dad from his earliest days that set him on a lifelong mission to bring joy and make memories for everyone in his life and anyone he encountered on any given day. People who knew him can attest to this. For example, many times when my dad first met someone, he didn’t offer the traditional handshake. Instead, dad usually grabbed hold of the person and started to do the polka with them. Nobody ever took him as a crazy person, but just a guy who was fun.

I’m not saying that dad’s legacy is that we all start doing the polka with each other, but there are ways each of us are gifted in “lifting others up” … letting every encounter be an opportunity for “making memories.”

You see? Dad never gave up on God … that was His Faith. And, He never believed God gave up on him … that was his Hope. And, because he cherished these realities so deeply, dad needed to celebrate this … that was his great Love for God and ALL of God’s children.

We have a tendency to get stuck on ourselves. In essence, this is when we doubt God’s love and God’s desire to bless our lives. And, we forget all the ways God has already blessed us. This place can become very dark and lonely. This is also a place where we wait for others to, somehow, bring us joy. Dad never allowed himself to go to “that place.” Each day, dad would bound out of bed, wondering who God was going to put in his path, so he could lift them up and out of their darkness and get the “epidemic of joy” spreading throughout the world. THAT is our calling.

Finally, many Catholic purists want to go around like Grinches, complaining how commercialized Christmas has become, and constantly remind everyone that the Christmas season is “after” Christmas, not before. Well, it’s both, in our American culture, and “so what?” Thanks to dad’s self-less lifelong mission to spread joy wherever he could, this was a time, in our family, for building up that “Christmas Spirit” in every way we could. Whether it was decorating or watching Christmas movies or playing Christmas music all day or looking for the perfect gift or spreading joy or building a 12-foot-high Santa snowman, we loved it all and made sure Christmas was a very big deal.

So, my advice to you is this: Don’t apologize for joyfully anticipating the birth of Our Savior, in all the beautiful, traditional ways our culture has done for centuries. Go ahead and decorate and listen to Christmas carols and …

Be a light! Make Memories! And Remember, It’s a Wonderful Life!


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