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Kirsten West-Savali: Dealing with the Loss of Loved Ones During the Holidays

By Kirsten West-Savali

My father loved the holidays, especially Christmas.

He would pull out a long, yellow legal pad and make lists weeks in advance so that all of our favorite dishes  – my brothers’, my sister’s and mine – were accounted for and requests were sent out to Ms. Geneva, the best dessert baker this side of the Mississippi.

Our home had a revolving door. Friends past and new would marvel at the perfectly laid out pastry table by the front door, designed down to the crumb by Daddy. One of our favorite uncles, Uncle L.D. would take the train in from Chicago, bringing laughter and naughty Christmas songs – Jack Frost nipping at your hmmmmm – and reminding us for the 100th time that when he came to visit us, he had special pants because he always left at least five pound bigger than he arrived.

Smelling of winter air, pine needles, burning firewood, apples and cinnamon, with The Temptations Christmas album on repeat, our home was lights and gifts, garlands and laughter, warmth and mistletoe.  Family and love.

And at the center of it all, was my father with a twinkle in his eyes that could rival St. Nick’s – whom by the way, in our home, slid down the chimney expecting Dr. Pepper and gumbo, not milk and cookies. It took us years to figure out why.

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