The Last Christmas

The last Christmas I saw him, I didn’t even comprehend what was about to unfold. Who even thinks about a holiday being the last you will ever spend with a loved one? The last Christmas you will be upset that they are drinking before noon; the last time you assure them that Lynyrd Skynyrd does not count as Christmas music; the last time they smoke a turkey and ham together, telling you, “The best way to cook a turkey is by laying it on the bottom rack. That way, the grease from the ham can drip down to the turkey and keep it from drying out.” Me nodding, half listening and half wishing that he would dry out.

Some holiday that was. Nothing superior or inferior about it. Just a plain middle-of-the-road, uneventful family gathering. Looking back, I guess I kind of wish it had been some elaborate over-the-top celebration. The kind you plan for months. The type where friends and family travel from all over the country. You know, matching pajamas and staying up till 2 a.m. the night before recounting stories and memories of the past. Speaking of the past, if I had known that this would have been my last time sitting around a fire with him, would I have put in any effort? Would I have attempted to connect, figure out why he had been so distant or talked about what he had been struggling with? Who’s to say? The thought didn’t even pass my mind that maybe there would never be another Christmas.

After his passing, it was never the same. Each year blended into the next. The holidays lost their color, their vibrant joy and their ability to do anything but remind me of him. What I would give to go back to one more Christmas yelling at him to stand up, to pull it together. It’s an odd request for sure, but one that brings me comfort. I’m unsure if knowing it would have been my last Christmas with him would have changed anything. However, realizing that this could be my final time to make a goofy family Christmas card or gift a pair of socks with superimposed images of my animals on them changed everything. I now get to be grateful for every moment with those who matter. I get to share love and joy with them. Through cooking, playing music and pulling the Christmas tree out of the garage thinking to myself, “One more time.” I am grateful for all of those I do not know either. Some of you reading this have homes full of shared family recipes. Others may be reading this wondering where their next meal is going to come from. Wherever you are, whoever you are with or without, I am grateful you are here.