By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  12.12.2014
                                               “CHRISTMAS TREE!”

I still find myself smiling, oftentimes laughing and sometimes yelling, just like we used to.

                                              “CHRISTMAS TREE!”

It is impossible for me to forget the memories of those conversation-interrupting, semi-competitive, laughter-inducing and top o’ the lungs screaming of the words “CHRISTMAS TREE!” , each time we saw a Christmas tree. It was one of many silly things we did. To have fun because we could. Because we wanted to. Because he deserved to experience uninhibited laughter. Because he deserved more. And why not. Why would you not create a reason to have fun, a reason to laugh?

I’ve never written about Justin. It’s not that I don’t think about him. I do. He is alive and well in my memory and surviving his untimely death at age 23 has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never written about him; he’s close to my heart which is something I protect with a vengeance.

Yet, something has changed this Christmas season. I’m living in a new city. It’s a different culture, a different lifestyle and a different landscape. It’s ok to say Merry Christmas, we’re still politically correct but we can openly wish people a Merry Christmas.  As silly as it may seem, Christmas seems more alive now and I know Justin would approve. There are Christmas trees everywhere. I don’t mean the lit trees seen through picture windows…this is different. These trees are everywhere and Justin would, without a doubt, love it. And it cracks me up. I smile, I laugh and I yell just like we used to. My fellow commuters probably think I’ve lost my mind and I don’t care.

He didn’t have a lot of things to smile and laugh about. Justin’s life was defined by poverty and all if its side effects but through it all his demeanor seldom changed. The kid was positive and fun and full of potential. He came into my life, I came into his. Each year at Christmas we were silly, me creating reasons for him to laugh and he being completely open to the opportunity. We began saying “Christmas tree”  each time we saw a lit or decorated tree. Any tree counted…a tree in a window, a tree in a town square, a real tree, a fake tree…and like so many little things that turned into big things, a small game that became an annual tradition…seeing one tree and another and another would quickly escalate into unbridled excitement. It didn’t take long for us to yell,“Christmas tree!” at the top of our lungs.

And now, Justin is gone and I live a world away yet that memory is alive and well. I see the tree’s that live alongside the route I take to work and I have watched with utter amazement these past few weeks as Austinites have decorated the trees on the side of the road. It is the custom for people to decorate them and if you can think of a theme, odds are you’ll find it on a tree. Hundreds and hundreds of trees. Christmas trees.

“CHRISTMAS TREE!” And that makes it wonderful and beautiful and inspiring and fun…and for me…really hard, in an ‘I ought to be mature’ way. But that also becomes impossible which is completely ok. I’ll start off seeing a few dozen trees and then more and more and more…hundreds of trees. And I can’t help myself. And I don’t want to. I think of Justin, I remember our drives, I remember our tradition and before long I’m smiling, I’m laughing and sure enough a few times, I’ve let out a really loud, “CHRISTMAS TREE!”…in honor of him, in honor of our time spent and remembering that just because we’ve lost someone we love doesn’t mean their spirit is gone. It doesn’t mean the memory has to die.

                        So Kiddo…you oughta see this place…I’m not sure how
we’d ever keep track
of who had the most tree’s but you’d win…
you always won…and just so you know…
I haven’t forgotten and I never will.

                                               “CHRISTMAS TREE!”

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

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