I can hear them. I can hear the sounds of laughter and joyful shouting. I can see them too. Funny ... The people I know ... the ones who have left this life are talking to me and my loved ones of now. They seem happy. So safe. So protected from sadness. They are laughing. They are all huddled together ... all together in one room. And it's Christmas Day. I can smell the food, the wine, the baked goods, the black coffee, the anisette. But how can this be? How can so many people fit into one small room? This can't be real. This cannot be real.
But the people then begin to fade to silhouettes. Something ... something is trying to intrude, to interrupt, to shatter the happiness and disturb their safety. Yet, I know I heard them. And the faces ... Surely they were real. But they're not here, and they aren't people at all. They are just silhouettes dancing behind the drawn curtains of my eyelids. And now those eyelids are open to the lights of the Christmas tree in our living room - the same lights that apparently provided the projection of moving images on those two small theater screens that covered my eyes as I slept ... as I dreamed.
For a short time, the people who were once part of my life became part of it again. We were all together. They were together with the ones who mean so much to me now. Dreams are funny that way. So are the holidays. There is a melancholia that hangs during the holidays like a dark and solemn ornament. It faces off with happiness and wages battle for dominance and supremacy. And as you miss the people who once shared so many Christmases with you, you begin to wonder where your own little world as you know it today will be 10 years from now, 20 years from now.
I wish I was sure that there is a Heaven. And if ... if there is a Heaven, I know what I'd want, and I can only pray on this Christmas Day and every day of my life that remains, that my Heaven is one giant table, and everyday is like Christmas Day, just like a lovely dream.
I see a table - a massive table filled with all of the familiar faces of those I loved - those who really meant something to me in my life. And they are all there. There, as I remember them, as I remember them best. And there is an empty chair ... an empty chair waiting just for me. And the ones who loved me most - those who left this life before me - are standing behind the chair, holding it out for me, calling me, smiling as I approach. As they summon me, my walk then turns into a run, and I run toward them with tears of infinite joy, for now it is all infinite. And I run faster, faster, with outstretched arms, reaching hard to touch them, to hold them ... to never let them go, because they are mine. They were always mine - before, and now. And no one can ever take them away from me. Not anymore, because they belong to me. And this time, it's forever. And for my loved ones who depart after me, I too can hold an empty chair out for them.
Merry Christmas to all those who hold tightly to the dream of Heaven with unreserved faith, and believe in the special magic of Christmas every day of every year.
n John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him a firstname.lastname@example.org.