"How do I better connect with family members who have passed?”  My answer is, “Treat them like Santa Claus”.

Huh? What? We know that Santa Claus isn’t a real person (Sorry to disappoint you, Virginia).  And we know that our relatives were real people who loved us and are now our guardian angels.  In our minds we believe this, but our actions show otherwise.  We give more credence to the existence of Santa than we do to the existence of our angels.

 We teach our children to believe in Santa—he is watching us so we’d “better be good for goodness sake.”  It was his elves who made the gifts under the tree (we give no credit to dad who stayed up all night wishing he had paid the extra $25 to have Toys R Us assemble the bicycle) We read poems and sing songs about Santa  “coming to town”. His image can be found on everything from boxer shorts and baby bibs to cookie jars and candles.  It would be a fashion faux pas to wear a red and green blinking-light-up-sequined sweatshirt—but it’s okay if Santa’s smiling face is on the front. Santa doesn’t need the extra calories, but on Christmas Eve we leave him milk and cookies. And because Rudolph gets hungry too, we can make “Magic Reindeer Food” (a mixture of oats and red and green food coloring). Santa Claus has kept up with technology with various ring tones, wall papers, and screen savers. Forget the snail mail—you can e-mail Santa and receive a response by going to mailsanta.com. Our actions, our words, and our thoughts honor this mythical jolly old soul whom we have never met. And it makes us feel happy inside. 

 If we give the same treatment to our loved ones who have crossed over, we will feel closer and more connected to them.  Treat them like Santa Claus.  Let your children know that Grandma’s spirit is always around, seeing everything they do.  Tell them that Grandpa is not keeping a list to see who is “naughty or nice”—he has and always will love them unconditionally.  Keep your angels nearby by talking out loud to acknowledge their presence. Come’on, you can sing that a red-nosed reindeer will “go down in history” so it shouldn’t be hard to say, “I love you Grandma.” Keep their photo on the mantle—we all know what Santa looks like, but can our children pick Grandpa out of a family photo? Repeat stories about their life—Santa comes from the North Pole, but where did Grandma live? Do we really need to watch Tim Allen morph into Santa for the umpteenth time—turn off the TV and break out the home movies.

The spirit of Santa Claus instills excitement in children and an uplifting feeling in all of us, especially after the Christmas shopping is done.  We can have that joyous feeling all year long by strengthening the relationship with our angels and making them part of our everyday life. Treat them like Santa Claus.  Make this a tradition that will carry on in your family long after you have passed.  And 100 years from now, you’ll be happy that your great grandkids make you as real as Santa Claus. Merry Christmas!