Our Last Christmas with Daddy

I leaned in close to Daddy. It was a mere two weeks until Christmas, 2011, as well as a handful of days before my daddy’s 77th birthday. He barely responded to my touch. Daddy was dying. I told him, his baby was home. I promised that I wouldn’t leave. I was there to stay. No matter how long it took him to die, I would not leave.

How do you define a special or spectacular Christmas? What is a perfect Christmas? Is it a tree, or decorations? Maybe for you, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the festivities, sentimental food, and gifts.

Truthfully, I love giving and receiving gifts. I enjoy attending Christmas programs, and parties…I always look forward to our beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service. I have a ball decorating the house, trimming the tree, hanging garland and dragging out the candles. I stare in wonder when I drive down Main Street in our small town. The beautifully decorated street makes me feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of a gushy Hallmark Christmas movie.

But the most sacred… precious… blessed Christmas I ever witnessed, was that Christmas, in 2011, when Daddy went to be with Jesus. It was the first time I had been home for Christmas in twenty years, I usually traveled the 3,000 miles in the fall. That year, the family gathered…we laughed, we cried. Daddy would not leave us for another three days.

The Tuesday afternoon Daddy left us, Mother, Jan (my sister), her daughter, my youngest son and I gathered around Daddy’s bed. The four of us (my parents, sister and I) used to sing often together. Daddy was a preacher so there was always a place for us to sing together as a family. So it was appropriate, that as Daddy lay dying, Mother, Jan and I softly sang. Tears flowed. Daddy’s breathing slowed. We hushed. And just like that, Daddy slipped from us. It was beautiful, his passing. He had struggled for years with Parkinson’s disease. His battle was over, his pain was done. We watched as the hospice nurse checked for any signs of life and then pronounced him dead. He was gone.

December 28, 2011, they came to take my Daddy away. It would be his last ride from the house. Mother, Jan, her daughter, my youngest son, and I followed reverently behind the gurney that carried the precious pastor. The door of the hearse opened; Mother turned. The pain was too great; she couldn’t watch. My sister, and niece led Mother back into the house. I couldn’t leave him. I had promised to be there. Something made me stay and watch over him. My dear son placed his arm around my shoulder.

It seemed to take forever, but in all actuality, it was only a matter of minutes until the hearse pulled away.

That night our family gathered in the yard with the same colorful balloons we had given Daddy eight short days before for his birthday. In celebration of his homegoing, we each released a balloon. It was bitter-sweet watching the pretty helium filled balloons set sail in the dim lit sky making their way into the heavens. Questions and endless thoughts bombarded my head with wonder. What was Daddy doing? Was he still crumbled in awe before the throne? Was he singing, was he dancing? My thoughts were set fully on Heaven, for I knew… the body that rode away in the hearse that day was only a shell, my daddy was in Heaven, glorifying and rejoicing with the angels. “Congratulations, Daddy, on the promotion,” I shouted as the balloon slipped from my grasp and rose toward the stars. Daddy was with Jesus and more alive now than ever, and for that reason alone, it was the most wonderful Christmas ever

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Thank you for reading. If you’d like to share about Christmas memories with loved ones, feel free to comment below. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season as you gather together with friends and family.

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