“It’s midnight. Happy New Year, baby,” I told my darlin’, and he took me in his arms and kissed me. And then I started crying.
Never have I been so ready to retire a year as 2012. Never have I looked so forward to a new one as to 2013. We need a better year than the one whose calendar just ended.
It was January one year ago that the call came. My sister-in-law asked if my husband was home. She had news for both of us about my father-in-law. And as I hung up the phone, I prophesied truth out loud, and alone.
“Rough road ahead,” I said with a sinking heart.
I didn’t know the half of it. Before the year was over, we made four trips to see his dying father. The final journey was the one no one ever hopes to make, as we said our last goodbyes.
One short year—the longest of my life.
But children—what pure hearts they have. No wonder Jesus said none of us will enter His kingdom unless we become children again. On Christmas day two weeks ago, we celebrated with our daughter and her family a few miles from our own home. With Christmas presents unwrapped and dinner demolished, we set up the computer and called my mother-in-law to send her our love via skype. We chatted and laughed as the little ones hammed it up in front of the camera. And then my granddaughter—the four-year-old who prayed for her Pap throughout his long illness—spoke to the heart of the matter.
“Mam,” she began, her mind wondering grown-up things, “we prayed today for your peace and comfort. Do you miss Pap?” she questioned.
We waited and watched as her great-grandmother gently answered her on this first-ever Christmas without her husband of sixty years.
“Yes, I do,” she replied, “and I do feel peace and comfort,” she finished.
Suddenly no one else was in the room but this sweet little granddaughter and her Mam.
“I feel sad that he died. Are you sad?” she continued.
“Yes, I am sad,” came her grandmother’s reply.
“Well, I think he’s saving a place for us,” Allie told her grandmother, and her Mam smiled. “I think he and Jesus are having fun,” Allie concluded. “Guess what I got for Christmas!” she said next, and the conversation was finished as soon as it began. The innocence of a child and the love of her great-grandmother connected in an honest moment of comfort for everyone.
At the end of a long, sad year, when the loss of a father overshadowed the birth of a Child, the love of another child returned joy to grieving hearts.
It was the gift of Christmas.