“During Christmastime, I always think of and miss my grandpa a little more than usual. He LOVED Christmas & always made fudge, his famous ham, and went all-out decorating. He was convinced his voice was identical to Bing Crosby or Dean Martin and any time I hear White Christmas, I’m five years old, riding on cold leather seats in his blue car, hearing him sing. Today is his birthday & he’s celebrating with Jesus for his 5th year! So thankful for the forgiveness, redemption, and salvation through Jesus so I can know I’ll see Grandpa again!”
Facebook Post | December 13, 2013
Christmas is hands-down my favorite holiday. It always has been, too. It just seems like people are more kind, more generous, more thoughtful…and we all would probably agree that the world needs more of that! When I think of Christmas, I think of the magic of the season sweeping through a town like a glittery trail of fairy dust dancing on the the air, weaving through crowds of shoppers and swirling up Christmas trees as all the lights come on. (Yes, I imagine it like a Hallmark movie!) You have to admit – there’s a just a lightness and joy that fills us during the Christmas season.
Christmas at Granny and Grandpa’s wasn’t ever “grand” like it is in those Hallmark movies I love so much. No big fancy gifts wrapped in gold paper with huge bows or grandiose trees, but Grandpa went all-out with his annual transformation of the house for the holidays! Grandpa would put up and decorate the tree and I’d search it for my favorite ornaments. He’d put tinsel on the branches – that’s right, tinsel – and he always ALWAYS used colored lights. Those big, bulky retro lights, no less! Come December, he’d be putting that light up plastic Santa, sleigh, and reindeer on his roof and he did it until he physically couldn’t. One of my favorite touches was the spray snow Grandpa would use to decorate the windows. He’d make sure the corners were a little “fuller” and he’d use the stencils with shapes of snowmen and reindeer and stars to decorate the center of the panes. I am certain that if he were here today, his yard would be full of those inflatable characters…or the yard with a drive-through display for everyone to enjoy!
The meal on Christmas day was always something I looked forward to – and not just because I love food! Grandpa’s ham would’ve put that national franchise ham-selling place TO. SHAME. You know how they say you’ll wish you had spent more time or paid more attention to certain things once they’re gone? Cooking with my grandparents tops that list for me. Every year, there’s at least one conversation about how good Grandpa’s ham was and how we wish we had the recipe to eat it one more time. All I know is that he used cloves and pineapple slices and a can of Coca Cola. Then he’d make gravy from the juices in the pan, serve it with some warm creamed potatoes, and I swear it was okay to be a glutton one day out of the year and it HAD to be Christmas! (Okay – two days, because he made it at Easter, too.) (Revelation: it was Jesus ham. Eat away, it’s holy ham…you’re good.) If Chickfila can be “the Lord’s chicken”, my grandpa had the Lord’s ham. No contest!
When it came to gifts, my grandparents were always generous. I like to think that’s where my love language originated from – two of the people I love the most. I’m convinced that my grandpa would’ve given a stranger the shirt off his back if he asked for it and Granny would’ve spent every last penny to make sure her loved ones had everything they wanted. They had humble beginnings and it planted seeds of generosity in their hearts, for sure! One of my favorite gifts was…wait while I show my age…my Nintendo. The ORIGINAL, y’all. Yep, that’s right, the very first Nintendo – grey and black and red and with the square game cartridges that you had to blow dust out of when they wouldn’t work and the amazing graphics that blew your mind that you could have an arcade game at HOME! Purchased from KB Toys in the Houston Mall…probably after a trip to the Barrel of Fun and lunch at Orange Julius. (You’re welcome to all those local friends reading this…the nostalgia is REAL!) The best part about that? Grandpa played it with me. A lot. He never – well, almost never – “let” me win. He taught me that sometimes you lose – keep going. Try again. So when we upgraded to the Super Nintendo years later and I was old enough to learn secret tips or tricks and I’d one-up him…he’d get mad when I wouldn’t share my secrets. One gift, then another, and I’ll carry those memories of the time we spent together forever. Proof that a thoughtful gift can last a lifetime. It wasn’t the gift itself that I love, it’s the memories that gift allowed me to create.
While Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, December is always a little bittersweet. Because I’ll be going along with all the festivities and then White Christmas comes on the radio. Or my kids request to watch the original Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Or Facebook reminds me that my Grandpa is celebrating his 10th birthday with Jesus. The joy and the grief all wrapped up into a season of memories.
The beautiful thing about the end of my Grandpa’s story on earth is the part I can’t NOT share here. The last week of his life was hard. His lungs were weak from early years and years of smoking (even though he quit long before he got sick) and his body was wearing down from chemo and treatments and we found ourselves waiting, praying he was comfortable. While in the hospital, he would laugh and joke with the nurses…my favorite memory was when a nurse came in and wiggled his toe under the blanket to see if he could feel it. “I sure can!,” he said, as he moved both feet making the blanket go up and down. “Want me to do a little soft shoe for ya?” And he moved his arms and “tapped” his feet like he was on a dance floor dancing! We all laughed and it was last glimpse of his personality I saw. The next day, he was quiet, comfortable, resting. We were all there with him as the Lord called him home. It was September 26, 2008.
Two weeks before he left us, Grandpa asked Jesus into his heart. Right there in his kitchen, my dad led him AND my Granny to the Lord. In that moment – that instant – their lives were forever changed. For eternity. The promise of eternal life in the presence of the King of Kings – no suffering, no pain, no sorrow. Joy. Wholeness. Rejoicing. FOREVER. Words can’t express the gratitude I have that my dad showed them and told them about salvation through Christ – not just on that day, but consistently, and also that because they chose to accept it, I’ll get to see them again one day. It’s never too late, friend. Today can always be THE day that your life is eternally changed, too.
So as Christmas tip-toes closer and closer and the gifts pile under the tree and the lights twinkle and we celebrate the season, my prayer is that you take the opportunities to make those memories that last a lifetime. Take time to slow down and love the people around you. See them, hear them, hug them, laugh with them, cry with them, encourage them. Think about and talk about the Reason we celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus, sent by God to redeem you back to Himself. Read the story old-school – straight from scripture and take the time to explain it to your kiddos.
If Grandpa were here this year, I can promise you he’d be doing all his decorating and gathering ingredients for ham and creamed potatoes and gravy, and trying to subtly (or not so subtly) find out what you wanted for Christmas. That’s what he always did. But I can guarantee you that he’d be the first one to tell you that Christmas is so much sweeter with Jesus. He’d want you to have that. He’d want me to tell you that for him – and for you. He knows – like grandpas always seem to know the good stuff.
After all…this year, he’s got a decade of Christmases in the presence of Jesus under his belt. And I’m sure this one is Grandpa’s favorite.