“If only there was a way to know you are in the good old days before you have actually left them.”

As much joy as this time of the year brings, there is also a hint of sadness. I think it begins around Thanksgiving for me, it is when I start to feel the tiniest bit of nostalgia as I roll into the driveway of my childhood home. I remember a time when that driveway was overflowing with people walking up the stairs, my entire extended family would be inside waiting with open arms and stories to tell.

In the entire 20 years of my existence I have heard of all the good times involving those who have passed on. There were people in my family that made such a difference in the ways that I was raised, and I never even met them. So around the holidays it becomes evident that I missed out on something extraordinary.

I took solace in knowing that I had never felt the weight of losing somebody so dear to me. I was too young to know what that felt like, and never in my life did I imagine myself in all of their shoes.

Seven months ago I lost a family friend that I thought would be in my life forever. It was unexpected, devastating, and beyond anything I could have imagined. His sudden passing struck a different kind of chord inside of me. For the first time in my entire life, he would not be in my home on Thanksgiving, or passing presents on Christmas Day.

These revelations made me reflect back on all of the years we did get to spend together. I thought about the 18 years of holiday cheer we were able to spread together. I thought about the years he would bring his guitar to any Christmas function we attended, ready to break out into “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” on a moment’s notice. I think about the nativity plays we performed in at church every year with our friends. I think about singing in the midnight mass at our church those same nights. I think about everything.

I think about how I will never get to live those moments with him again.

And only now have a realized the pain that I watched my extended family go through every Thanksgiving.

Even with all this heartache, in death there is life. I have learned from losing a loved one that now more than ever it is important to share your time with ones that matter most. I take those moments that I hold so dear and I have to burn them into my mind for the rest of my life. It will never be the same again, and as hard as that is to come to terms with, it is a fact I must accept.

The holidays bring out a deeper more caring side of humanity. It brings to the surface who and what is important in this crazy thing we call life.

This being the first year that I will be missing somebody, I think it is important to make as many wonderful memories as possible. Because life is too short to be anything but happy. As cliche as that may sound, it is true. Far too often people are rushing through life worrying about school or money or work.

Whatever it may be, put it aside this holiday season. I urge you to spend time with loved ones, because you never know when consistency becomes a memory.