Smallest objects can hold special meaning


Here we are again — December. It seems like every December I think back and cannot believe another year has flown by. Isn’t there a saying about time being a thief that never gets caught? Oh well, I guess that’s one case that even the best prosecutors couldn’t win.

At least we always get to end the year on a high note. The holidays are such a special time. We celebrate. We spend time with family and friends. We share and reconnect. Personally, I love to reminisce. One of my favorite things is looking at pictures from years past or reflecting on little treasurers I keep in my house. One such treasure is a set of small, brightly-colored strainers (think cup size and smaller). Yep, strainers. There are four of them, and I use them almost every day to wash fruit or vegetables for my family. These strainers, much like our love for our families, have stood the test of time. They were actually a gift from me to my now-deceased, maternal grandmother, Ruby. As a child, mom would take me to the dollar store and give me a few dollars to buy presents for my grandparents. Before you get too impressed at my ability to choose practical gifts, I must say that mom would steer me away from buying stuffed animals and toys. (Thanks, mom!) Anyway, I had to be about 6-10 years old when we purchased the strainers, and at the time, would never have thought they would someday be a treasured staple of my own.

Grandma Ruby kept the brightly-colored strainers for years, and when she moved to assisted living in 2015, the set went to mom. Now that mom no longer cooks (if you remember, she has Alzheimer’s), the strainers have a place in my home. If you were to visit, you may notice the strainers, but never give them a second thought. When I look at those tiny strainers though, they hold a part of my childhood. I remember Grandma Ruby’s warm hugs, endless chocolate treats, watching Nick at Nite, and my uncle climbing on the roof every Christmas Eve and stomping around, pretending to be a reindeer. I remember moments with mom, all the time we spent together, and especially time around the holidays. Each strainer holds with it a feeling, a smile, maybe even a tear or two. I remember shopping, holiday trips to City Center to see the Christmas tree and decorations, terrible wrapping, waiting for Santa, and Christmas Eve candlelit services. My parents were convinced I would burn the church down because we used real candles back then!

Times have certainly changed from when I first picked up those little strainers – so unassuming. Who would have thought they’d ever mean so much? Now that my grandmother Ruby (who was my last remaining grandparent) passed away in 2016, I hold them even closer to my heart. I’m so thankful I have those memories to cherish. This time of year, especially, I am reminded of just how blessed I am to have my parents and family. And, this may sound a bit morbid, but I appreciate being able to say my goodbyes to family we have lost and prepare for their absence and grieve. I believe, as hard as saying goodbye is, it is also a gift – a gift that not everyone receives.

Recently, I attended a remembrance ceremony for lives lost in traffic crashes in Delaware County during 2021. In an instant, 12 lives were lost. Ranging in age from 11 to 89, their lives were ended in a moment, gone forever. There was no time to say goodbye, no time to hold a hand or share a last loving word. Instead, families are left behind to deal with an unexpected and tragic loss. I’ll never be able to understand the pain of those family members left behind, but I have experienced their devastation many times by being in their presence.

At this year’s ceremony, we honored (among others) a family of four lost to an impaired driver. And just like the memory of my strainers, I will never forget the embrace and tears of a mother who had lost not only her daughter, but her son-in-law and two grandsons as well. This will be a holiday without her loved ones. This will be a holiday to remember for all the wrong reasons. So, as December rolls in, I beg you.

Please celebrate responsibly. You do not want to be the cause of empty chairs at family gatherings. Just as important, please drive responsibly. Wear your seat belt. Put your cell phone down. Don’t drive if you’re tired. Never drive impaired. Traffic crashes can be prevented if we are all responsible.

Should you pass the Ohio State Highway Patrol post on U.S. Route 23 and notice their holiday wreath display on the front lawn, know that it represents much more than holiday cheer. This is the SAFE Coalition (Safety Awareness For Everyone) display associated with the remembrance ceremony I attended. Each wreath has the name and age of someone lost to a traffic crash this past year. The SAFE Coalition, made up of various community partners like my office and others, erects this important display annually to honor those we have lost and to remind us all to drive responsibly.

I wish you all an amazing holiday filled with wonderful memories. And as you head out the door and hop in your car for those holiday travels, be safe. Let’s get through the rest of 2021 without losing another human being to a senseless traffic crash.

By Melissa A. Schiffel

Contributing columnist

Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.

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