Last year at this time my mom was entering what was to be the last week of her life here on earth. The memories for me are sharp, the feelings still somewhat raw at times. Christmas lights and Christmas songs still cause my eyes to fill with unbidden tears – I miss my mom. I will miss celebrating this most special time of year with her.
Last year, with the turn of the calendar to December, mom’s almost 98 year old body was frail and growing weak. No longer eating or drinking, she did not lose heart. Her faith was strong, her hope constant. Though outwardly she was wasting away, yet inwardly she was being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). Confined to her wheelchair or bed, mom’s attitude remained one of thankfulness and grace. She would often sing and recite poetry. During a visit in latter years, she would cheerfully sing songs from her school days, or from the war years. She had any number of favorite poems and Bible verses that she would recite with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.
During her final days, mom so enjoyed watching her 5 year old great grandson, along with my sister, assemble the traditional ceramic Christmas tree on the table in her room. She even sang “O Christmas Tree” to accompany them. And then, just 4 days before her death, mom was delighted to hold her newest great grandchild, just a few weeks old. The last photo I have of mom shows her seated with a beautiful red poinsettia plant in her lap along with a “Christmas Love” card from her family. She did so love her family – and we all loved her.
Mom knew the meaning of true love. What she prized most in all of life was her God, her family, and her friends. She always made her home a welcome place, and it’s where I wanted to be, especially at Christmas.
This year the celebration of Christmas will be different for most of us. When naturally our thoughts turn towards family, friends, and home, things will look and feel oddly strange. Because of Covid 19’s grip on the world, family gatherings everywhere will be smaller, or maybe not at all. This year’s new reality is one of restricted travel, no office parties or neighborhood potluck dinners. There won’t be choral recitals or church pageants. Empty places will stare from our table because someone we love has died, is sick and in isolation, or just couldn’t make it home for the holidays.
Now that December is here, Christmas music is filling the airwaves. One song that always touches me deeply, and is especially poignant for me this year, is the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. A Christmas classic, it was originally written by the lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent. The song was first sung and recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, its original intent being to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time. Then, as now, many were unable to be where they wanted with all their hearts to be.
The human spirit longs for home, especially at times like Christmas. Have you ever wondered why this is so? It’s something that’s been planted deep inside each one of us.
While my mom loved her home here on earth, she knew where her true home was. When this life was drawing to a close, mom knew without a doubt where she was going. She knew her forever home was with the Lord Jesus.
Thinking back now, I can imagine what mom was experiencing as she slipped into sleep on her final day with us. Her body was so very tired, but her spirit was alive and joyfully singing the wonderful words of anticipation and affirmation: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”!
I believe she is.
And she’s waiting there for me.