I see two scenes clearly in my head when I think of Christmas.
One was from 2004, the day after Christmas; on a TV screen, I saw the battered coastline of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, leveled by a tsunami after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean.
I remember being aghast at the destruction, the extent of the widespread disaster and the loss of life (over 227,000 fatalities), and thinking, “How could this happen now, in the midst of what is supposed to be a happy season?”
Then I remembered, humans don’t exactly think of the season, either, when they throw their crap into the sea. I’m not saying the men, women and children who died deserved it; it’s just that the unpredictability of nature is a direct function of climate change due to man’s abuse of the environment.
Sadly, I don’t think we’ve really learned the lesson.
And then, long before “climate change” was a catchphrase, I remember the cool, beautiful Christmas Eve of 1982 in our old family house in Tagaytay, with grandchildren running around. It was a banner year for me, having graduated from high school, celebrated my debut, and entered college, intent on becoming a doctor and taking care of my father, who had a heart condition.
My future patient, however, had begged my sister-in-law to make what was then a novelty in some Filipino restaurants, Caesar salad, and the expression of sheer joy on his face after his first mouthful was priceless. It is a sight I will never forget.
My father, the house, and three of my five siblings are no longer with us. Many of my best and worst years have also rolled around since then, and while my mother is now 94, those grandchildren have also grown up, had families of their own, and are making their own mark in the world.
Although 2004 to me was the last time my family was “complete,” in my book, as nothing has been the same since we lost Daddy, I also enjoy the view from the middle—saying goodbye to elders, but watching the next generation grow and thrive.
On his last Christmas on Earth, my father showed me how to find a perfect moment of joy in the everyday—a bowl of leaves, croutons and dressing. Despite the tsunamis that sometimes rock my world, I vow to do the same.