My mother came to Washington for a pre-holiday visit. She was the kind of mom who decorated the entire house at Christmas. Putting ornaments on the tree, singing carols, making and decorating sugar cookies are a few of things she did with us when we were children that made this time of year magical for us. Four years ago, our holidays took a different spin. There is now an empty seat around the family table – one person no longer around to shop for and open gifts around the Christmas tree.
My brother was killed in Afghanistan and the sadness that has permeated our life since his death seems to sting a little more this time of year as we reflect on sweet memories of the past. For a change of pace this year, my mom came to visit me. I had numerous holiday things planned, and a musical seemed to be a great idea. As we sat watching the various scenes in ‘A Christmas Story’ unfold before us at Sumner Main Stage Theatre, I was horrified as I sat beside my mother and watched the play trivialize the tragedy and loss of war that so many families have endured in losing a loved one.
It was crushing to witness my mother’s heartbreak as we sat in front of my 36 year old brother’s casket, receiving a final salute and heard the bugler play taps. I have met so many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and spouses who have stood by their loved ones grave and heard the mournful melody of taps which to us signifies the high cost of freedom.
When tragedy struck on September 11th over a decade ago, the American people gave a resounding and unified call for action saying, “someone should do something”. My brother was one of thousands who committed to serve and protect our country in the hopes another 9/11 would not happen. To see his sacrifice and that of hundreds of thousands of heartbroken American families belittled at the theatre in Sumner was devastating as I sat beside my mother.
Saluting a broken lamp and playing taps was cruel and unacceptable! Having attended plays at so many other venues and knowing the creative liberty that can be used to make changes, I challenge the Director and Choreographer of this theatre to remove the disrespectful salute and the playing of taps – for a broken lamp. In the meantime, enjoy your freedom as you enjoy another year. The price came at a cost our family and so many others were not prepared to pay. Our Christmas story is forever changed as we continue to mourn the empty seat at our house during the “most wonderful time of the year”!