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 students and teachers. He was smart, athletic, kind, and grounded. Everyone knew great things lay ahead for Brian Cardiff.
The Cardiff family had a Christmas Eve tradition, and it went something like this. Brian’s younger brother would ask if he could venture outside to look for Santa Claus. As the older brother, Brian accompanied him down the street where they gazed to the stars in search of Santa or signs of his sleigh.
But year after year they returned to the house disappointed, and Brian's parents would have to explain that Santa had stopped by while they were gone; delivered presents and moved on to the next house.
The family then opened presents and celebrated Christmas Eve. This was the Cardiff tradition repeated year-after-year.
Christmas traditions remain in our hearts and stay with us for a lifetime. Not only do we live them - we recall them with family and friends. As children, we remember how we spent each Christmas; it affects who we are, and the person we become. We pass them on to the next generation and the traditions continue.
With Christmas around the corner it's the time to remember the things that we are grateful for; the people who've passed through our lives, the kindness we received; and those who stayed the course of friendship.
This is also a time to keep alive a youthful spirit, to fondly recall unpretentious times when we lived a gentler life. The one we knew as kids.
I am reminded of an answer from President Ronald Reagan when he was asked to name the one book he would take with him as a castaway on a deserted island. "I would ask for the Bible," he said, saying that it was the greatest of all stories. It has love, hate, hope, joy, disappointment and tragedy – every emotion in life.
Reagan was right - and one of the most amazing passages 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 - like that of a child.
So it is that we learn many heartfelt things when we are young and we should 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.