Monday, December 29, 2014

These Gifts of Mine... The Message of Christmas

My children asked me, "Mom, what do you want for Christmas?"

I replied, "Come home."

They laugh.  "Mom, what do you want for Christmas?"  "I want you home." and the phrase repeats over and over in my head.  "I want you home.  I want my family home."

My children know me, whether I answer them as they wish or not, and they gave such wonderful gifts this Christmas:  gifts exchanged among wife and husband, children and grandchildren.  So many gifts.  So blessed.  Family gathered in a circle upstairs, Luke II read by grandson, packages taken from under the tree--and in the tree--by another grandson as each name and giver of the gift was read.  Laughter.  Teasing.  Joking.  Thank yous.  Gifts finally all dispersed and time given for each tag to be read, each gift opened, remarks made and especially thanking the giver as we went around the circle.  A family circle.  A family come home.  From out of nowhere, a remembrance of loved ones who could not come home suddenly flooded my thoughts.  Tears choked back knowing there were no gifts under the tree, or in a pile because some of our loved ones would not be home this year or ever again.

My daughter and my son both gave me gifts of bees:  precious, sweet, thoughtful.  I opened the first gift and wrapped the bee scarf around my neck.  It looked at home with the sparkley, golden shirt a once tiny grandson had chosen as his gift for me many Chrismases ago.  Then, when everyone had opened a gift and it came my turn again, I chose a big, square box. A perfect bee cookie jar!  For me!  First, a bee scarf and now a bee cookie jar!  "Where are you going?" my family asked as I grabbed the cookie jar and ran down the stairs.  Home.  This gift had a forever home downstairs on my kitchen table.

"Is there anything else?" I was asked.  I thought.  I shook my head back and forth.  No, I couldn't think of anything.  I could think of nothing but that my family be home.  Gathered around the table:  laughing, eating, a joyful noise for their mom!  That is what I yearned for the most this Christmas.  "Is there any saying you like, mom?" asked my son.

"Yes," I replied.  "There is a 15th Century Nun's Prayer that I like."  I read it to them.  They laughed.  This nun knew their mom on intimate terms, even if they never met and one was born in the 15th century.

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody: helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.


"Anything else?" my son asked.  "Yes."  I replied.  "I want something to remind me of Little Duck."

And, so it was, on Christmas Eve, I received Little Duck.  I cried when I opened this gift.  My family cried with me.  I again grabbed the gift and ran down the stairs.  My family didn't ask where I was going this time.  They knew I was taking Little Duck to his forever home.  Little Duck is on the lamp overlooking my chair.  He will constantly be a reminder of how fragile life is, to be kind and always, no matter what, embrace and say "I love you" when saying goodbye for, who knows, it could be for the last time.

Christmas is over physically but emotionally, this Christmas lingers on in my heart.  My family was home for such a short time.  They are now in their respective homes, as it should be for grownup children.  But, for that brief moment in time, our home resounded with laughter and talking and cooking (and eating more and richer foods than any human should).  I am overwhelmed as I write this of the love my family and friends displayed.  More than the physical gifts; their love manifested itself in its actions towards me, towards one another and towards those whom they came into contact.  There is a children's poem, entitled "Message of Christmas" by Rega Kramer McCarty that goes...

"What did the Christ Child teach us
By the humbleness of His birth?
What word came easiest to His lips,
As He walked with men on earth?
What spirit exemplifies His life,
A commandment for God above--
What is the message of Christmas time...
The wonderful message of LOVE.

And, so, from my house to your house, I wish you a belated Merry Christmas.