Our family couldn’t wait to decorate for Christmas this year. We had only been in our new home for eight months when my youngest daughter exclaimed, “I want to go all out for Christmas.” And so the decorating began in November. Usually the rule in my house is to decorate the day AFTER Thanksgiving, but this year, we were in the holiday spirit weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
It is such a special time of year, with a feeling of magic in the air. Everything seems so much brighter this time of year, with people seemingly more friendly and loving toward each other.
Why can’t we carry this feeling with us long after the holidays have gone?
For now, I’ll enjoy it while I can.
Sitting by the blazing fire, music playing softly, with Christmas lights twinkling all around me, I have to ask, “Does it get any better than this?”
Family and friends drew near on Thanksgiving day as we feasted together, truly thankful for all of our many blessings in this life. We are missing some this holiday season, but we keep them in our hearts … forever. Our memories bring them back to us any time we’d like … we just drift off into our own thoughts and find them there. What we wouldn’t do to have one more conversation with them, to tell them all the things we need to say to them. But, our hearts whisper them now and ask God to carry our message to our loved ones in Heaven.
I’m thankful for the man with white-as-cotton hair that I used to play in as I sat behind him in the car. “Papa,” as we all lovingly called him, even though he was my father-in-law and not my grandpa as so many thought when they saw us together. I’ll never forget this big, strong man sitting at the bar in the kitchen asking in this low tone, “Will you be my friend?” We’d laugh, as he was cutting up and fooling around. Oh, how I miss that man. “Tears In Heaven” was a favorite he would play, and it’s hard to listen to that Eric Clapton song today without thinking of his sad eyes upon learning he had lung cancer. We rallied around him, through the surgeries and treatments. He left this world way too soon, snatched from us before I could officially tell him that I was pregnant with his grandchild! She has had to learn of him through pictures and stories we tell … and that is my duty to make sure his memory lives on.
My heart is grateful for 33 years with my sister, although not all of them were full of happiness and joy. We fought, as all sisters do, and we had a falling out. But my heart is forever thankful for the time I had when our stubborn hearts were reunited. I’ll forever treasure the memory of her arriving at my workplace with a present for me. It wasn’t my birthday, holiday, or any special occasion that I knew of … yet she offered this present to me with a smirk upon her face. I took it from her hands, with a puzzled look on my face. She never said a word … just stood there grinning as I unwrapped the present to find a picture frame with her ultrasound inside. My heart leaped and did cartwheels at the thought of my sister having a baby. I’ll treasure that memory for all time. That special moment she shared with me.
I can’t help but think of the brown haired little boy looking up at me from his car seat as my daughter returned from a visit with her father years ago. Her brother, so innocent and sweet, sat there with skin of a porcelain doll. The face of an angel. He grew into this giant of a young man, towering over my daughter in her graduation picture. Yet another taken from us way too soon … he’s forever frozen at just 19 years of age.
I think of my grandparents that have gone on to be with the Lord. I was never their favorite, and I knew this. But toward the end, I felt I had some special time with my grandmother. We decorated her house and brought cake to welcome her home after an extended hospital stay. I knew the end was near after she suffered terribly for two years. Then, on her last Christmas with us, we took her a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. I’ll forever remember this once strong woman, now in her weak, frail state, singing along with us, giving reverence to our Lord and Savior.
The last Christmas with my mother-in-law was extra special as well. She knew the end was drawing near after she could not tolerate any more chemo. And so she invited us over for an early Christmas meal. We gathered around, trying desperately not to acknowledge what the near future would hold and just enjoy the time we had together. We ate the feast prepared by a local caterer, as she was far too weak yet would not allow us to bring anything. We laughed together and exchanged gifts … then a few short months later, she passed away.
Pictures … and memories … are all we have left of these beautiful people. Our hearts miss them more than our mouths will ever speak of … and we shed silent tears for them. But they have shaped who we are today. None of us will go through life unchanged or unaffected by the time we shared with them. It’s carved in our minds and we are better people for having them touch our hearts as they have.
A lot of people balk or groan at the thought of holiday pictures, or pictures in general … yet they are treasured for those left to pick up the pieces long after you’re gone.
This holiday season, get in the pictures. Laugh that full on belly laugh with your loved ones and stop hiding when the camera gets pointed in your direction. One day someone will be sitting there thinking of you and re-living memories, as they rifle through their pictures searching with all their might for ones of you.