Every Christmas I think about Brian Cardiff.
Brian was my best friend growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Everyone loved Brian. He was the leader of our 6th grade class at Como Elementary, and he was adored by the students and the teachers. He was smart, athletic, kind, and grounded. We all knew great things lay ahead for Brian Cardiff.
The Cardiff family had a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition, and it went something like this. At midnight, Brian’s younger brother would ask his mom and dad if he could go outside and look for Santa Claus and his sleigh.
Brian always accompanied his little brother down the block where they would gaze at the stars and look for Santa who might be making his rounds in the snow-covered neighborhood.
Year after year they were disappointed not to see Santa, and upon returning to the house the Cardiff parents would explain that Santa had come while they were gone; delivered the presents and moved on to the next stop.
The Cardiff family then opened Santa’s gifts on Christmas Eve. This was the Cardiff tradition and it was repeated year-after-year.
Christmas traditions remain in our hearts and stay with us for a lifetime. Not only do we live them - but we talk about them with others. They are recalled in conversations, perhaps during a family reunion or when we are with good friends.
As children, we remember them, and they affect who we are, and the person we ultimately become. Many pass these Christmas rituals down to their own children as part of a new tradition.
With Christmas around the corner it is time to remember the things that we are grateful for; maybe the gifts we have, our friendships, or someone who has been a positive influence in our life.
Christmas is also a time to remember that there is much to be said for keeping alive a youthful spirit, and to fondly recall the times and unpretentious lifestyle we enjoyed as kids.
I am reminded of an answer that former President Ronald Reagan gave when he was asked to name the one book he would take with him if he were a castaway on a deserted island. He responded, "I would ask for the Bible" - saying that it was the greatest of all stories. It has love, hate, joy, and tragedy – all the emotions of life.
Reagan was right - and one of the most intriguing passages of the Bible is Matthew 18:2-4 where Christ characterizes an individual’s conversion to Christianity as being childlike - in other words the strongest faith comes from a humble and sincere heart - just like that of a child.
So it is that many heartfelt things are learned when we are young, and it is of great importance to keep them close and remember them always.
It was 50 years ago that Brian Cardiff narrated his boyhood Christmas story to me. He later attended the United States Naval Academy and was killed during a flight training mission over the Mediterranean Sea in 1976.
But his Christmas Eve tale is still being told.