I love Christmas music. Every year after Thanksgiving I only listen to stations that have Christmas music in my car. I love to hear the voices of people like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis singing classic Christmas songs. I am reminded of just how great these professional singers really were. This year I noticed one station playing Christmas music even before Thanksgiving, but that’s too early even for me.
My family always met at my parent’s house on Christmas day in the afternoon to have a dinner and then open gifts. We would have piles of wrapped gifts under the tree. The kids would be ready to start as soon as they walked in the door, but we always waited until the last person had finished eating to start opening presents. My sisters Brenda and Tracy would go to the tree and start calling out names and handing out gifts.
Most of us just sat on the floor. I remember looking up one year and saw wrapping paper flying over my head. Everyone would be tearing off paper to see what they got while trying to see what everyone else got and taking pictures all at the same time. Everyone was happy and excited. It was like that for years and years. One year when my nephew Christopher was about a year old we had finished opening gifts when suddenly his mother said, “Where’s Chris?’ We all glanced around alarmed when someone saw some wrapping paper moving on the floor. We pulled it off and there was Christopher.
In 2017 my sister Brenda passed away suddenly after a back surgery. She went into a comma and never woke back up. For nearly two weeks her husband and two sons and I stayed at the hospital with her. When they moved her to Hospice we slept in the room with her until she passed away. I prayed as I had never prayed before and promised God every deal I could think of if he would just make her wake up. She was a nurse and a doctor whom she had worked with stopped by and said he did not understand why she was holding on. I immediately thought it was me. Everyone else had accepted what was going to happen, but I was still praying for a miracle. That night I whispered and told her to just go on if she needed too and asked God to do what was best for her.
The next morning, she just passed away. It just killed me. I mean, how could my younger sister pass away before me? It was just not natural or fair. I began praying and asking God to turn back time and make things right again. I remember walking into a Walmart and looking at all these people walking around shopping and talking as if nothing was wrong. Did these people not know that the whole world had changed? How could it go on or I go on without Brenda here?
Our family grew closer over the months to come trying to support and take care of each other, but we were like the walking wounded. Christmas came again and we gathered at my parent’s house and carried on our Christmas tradition. We still had little kids in the family and we wanted them to have a happy and special Christmas like we had always had. We adults focused on cheering each other up and remembering what Christmas really meant to us as Christians.
In 2018 my Dad passed away at nearly 87 of kidney failure. He had lived a long life, but you could have someone you love a thousand years and it still wouldn’t be long enough. I was praying for him to get better and looking up kidney research right up until the end. I had never spent a day in my life without having a Daddy somewhere who worried about me and loved me. We carried on as a family and enjoyed Christmas again at my parent’s house with my Mom.
My mother is 83 now and has had to move in with my sister Tracy to live. We have emptied my parents’ house out dividing things up among the family so everyone would have a part of the legacy of love my parents created when they married in 1957. For the first time in 60 years I will not spend Christmas night at my parent’s house. We will have a dinner Christmas Day and open gifts just like always at my sister’s house and carry on.
I put up a Christmas tree for the first time ever this year. I am enjoying the Christmas music as always and buying gifts I think each person will especially like. I have been so blessed. Yesterday our minister retold the story of Jesus’s birth. He lost a son a few weeks ago and at one point it seemed as if he could not go on. Sitting there looking at him I thought there really isn’t anything to say to comfort him.
Years ago, I went to a neighbor’s house after her son had died suddenly with a heart attack. He was in his late forties, but for his mother Mary it was like losing a three-year-old. I remember her telling my Mom that she had lost her grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts, and even her husband, but nothing had ever hurt her like losing one of her children.
So where does that leave us? You still celebrate Christmas just like when you were a child. You enjoy the music, gifts, and gathering of family and friends. If you are a Christian you celebrate the coming of Christ into our world and the gifts of grace, hope, love and eternal life that he gave us. Each Christmas is unique and they all come and go way to fast. When it’s over you remember to be thankful that you got to experience another Christmas and then move forward.
I am reminded of the saying our pioneer ancestors came up with when they journeyed to new lands to settle and make a new life. “You just have to keep covering ground”. You can’t go back and you can’t stay still. Life doesn’t work that way. You have to keep putting one foot in front of another and move and look forward. Wipe the tears from your eyes and cover as much ground as you can and remember to enjoy the new experiences and adventures that await you on your trial.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Published Dec. 24, 2019