Jacob’s face was pressed against the clear glass as he watched the planes slowly roll to the gates.
“Is that daddy’s plane mommy?”
Brenda smiled a little. Her eyes were shiny with dark semi-circles under them. Tiny lines spread out from the edges. They weren’t that way a year ago.
“No Jake. Daddy’s plane won’t be here for another hour. Would you like some hot chocolate while we wait?”
“No thanks mom. I don’t want to miss daddy when he comes.”
A huge tree was lit with tiny sparks of white and glistening ornaments at the end of the concourse. Brenda’s eyes went to it. Silver garland draped the walls; Christmas music made a low hum and people seemed to be in a heightened mood of excitement.
Brenda joined Jacob at the windows and gazed at the heavy-laden gray sky. Jacob kept vigil on the planes.
“Devon, hurry up we need to get to grandma’s house.”
Devon dragged his shiny new truck as he wrestled with his jacket. His face sported a huge grin displaying missing front teeth.
Dabbing at her eyes with a wilted tissue, Sheila couldn’t help but smile.
“Honey, don’t you want to leave that here.”
“No mom. You said this is grandma’s last Christmas. She will want to see my truck.”
Sheila winced at the matter of fact pronouncement by her son. She looked over to her husband who gently folded her into his arms.
“It will be okay. Your mom will think it is funny.”
Ted drew back from his wife and scanned her face.
“Sheila, some folks don’t get to say goodbye. Your mom is going to have the whole family there today to enjoy. This is going to be a wonderful day even though it hurts.”
The family crowded into the tiny living room with mismatched chairs. In the kitchen, food spilled over from counters to stove to table as each small family brought their offerings for the dinner. Soon conversations, laughter, arguments; all rose together in a crescendo of family.
Amidst the chaos sat a chubby woman with silver hair and wrinkled hands that held a shiny toy truck. Beneath the oxygen tubes that underlined her nose, her smile lit up the room.
I have been so blessed … so many Christmas dinners with my children … grandchildren who love me … my beloved husband who I will soon see again … and the Christmas I met Him.
As she glanced at the manger scene above the fireplace, a voice cut through her reverie, “Okay everyone – time to eat.”
Devon walked up to his grandmother and gently took her hand.
“Come on grandma. I want to walk you to your last Christmas dinner because you are the best grandma ever.”
The room silenced itself in ebbs of lost voices until nothing sounded except gentle breathing. Suddenly the burden of stillness was broken by the grandmother’s laughter.
“That will work out perfectly Devon, because I would like to walk with you …” here she stopped and looked around her with twinkling eyes, “and all of you to the first of your Christmas’ for the rest of your lives. Sheila dear, will you bring my Bible? Let’s read the story before we eat.”
The casket rolled slowly amidst the soldiers standing at attention. Jacob held his fingers straight and brought them to his forehead. A single tear slid down Brenda’s cheek.
Much later at home, Brenda holding a gold wedding band and Jacob clutching a smartly folded flag sat together looking at photos on the computer. Christmas’ past … a shiny tree, heaps of packages, and a smiling face with dancing brown eyes. In one of them, father and son were each holding huge red stockings with happy grins.
The room surrounding the computer looked barren. There was no tree … no shiny packages … no stocking by the mantle. Yet the only thing really missing was the smiling face with dancing brown eyes. Brenda sighed. I know he isn’t really missing. She remembered the night they met Him for the first time.
The shepherd boy looked down into the baby’s face. The star he had followed shone right onto the makeshift cradle. The air was fresh and still. A mesmerizing wonder filled the stable and mingled with the smell of hay and earth.
To the side were richly dressed kings offering fragrant and expensive gifts. The baby’s mother and father stood close by holding hands and fixing their eyes on the newborn. A dirty white wooly sheep and a worn out donkey lay down quietly near the bed of straw.
The shepherd boy knew he would never have a night better than this. Here in the stable amongst the chosen, the kings, the animals … here in the presence of God. An ordinary boy with an extraordinary Christmas … the first … the only … a Christmas to remember.