It has been twenty years since my husband passed away. I miss him more than I thought possible. He loved Christmas best.
We had many happy Christmases. I have vivid memories of them. Now memories are all I have. Our first Christmas, we were poor, as many were, at the end of the Depression. My gift from him that year was a nativity set I admired in Woolworth's window. I could not own it but I could admire it. Jack could whittle but I never knew how well until that Christmas.
Jack had noticed me admiring the set. I still can't believe it, but it is sitting on my mantle today. Jack whittled every piece. It is so beautiful to me.
I unraveled a sweater and knit it into a scarf for him. He wore it proudly. He looked fine in it and his Army uniform. We couldn’t know, he would be drafted a week later. Spending the rest of our first year of marriage fighting overseas. I missed him then; I miss him more now.
Jack came home a changed man. He was more aware of life’s preciousness. He wanted to enjoy every minute of it. Our house was always full--full of people, laughter and love.
It seemed fitting that he would lose his battle on Christmas day. He returned from World War II a decorated war hero. And he died a hero.
On Christmas Eve, we were driving home on a lonely stretch of road. As we were singing along with the radio, the car in front of us slid on the ice and tumbled into the ravine.
Jack quickly stopped and went to offer help. I tried to get him to stay with me and call from home. But he wouldn't listen. He left with a "Stay here, sweetheart. I'll be back."
Soon after, he returned to send me home to call for help. He said he'd stay with the family, a young mother and her son, until help arrived. Reluctantly I agreed. I'd not been home long when I heard a knock on the door.
I was surprised when I saw a Sheriff's deputy on the porch. He told me the family was fine, but Jack had been outside in the freezing temperatures too long. He was on his way to the hospital. On our way, the deputy told me how it happened. After I had gone home, the car, already precariously perched on the bank of the ravine, had slipped in with the family inside. Jack, always the hero, dove in after it.
The night passed in anxiety. Early the next morning, Jack breathed his last on his favorite day of the year. I have never been the same.
For a time I was showered with invitations during the Christmas season. But as time marched on, those slowly stopped. Christmas tends to be a lonely time for me. A lonely time of reliving memories. No one has time for an old lady and her stories.
That is why the visit I had yesterday was special. I was ruminating on memories, when the doorbell chimed. I was surprised to see a little boy from up the street holding a red Poinsettia.
I cracked the door open and asked him "What do you want, young man? I'm not buying plants."
"Oh no, Ma'am. I'm not selling plants. I'm giving you this. Could I come in? I'd like to talk awhile."
I had to let him in because Jack always said, "I'd like to talk awhile." I opened the door and ushered him in.
We settled in the rockers. What I would say to this child? He started our conversation, "I've meant to come down for awhile and say thank you for giving your husband so my Daddy could live,” he said. “Daddy tells about a Christmas Eve 20 years ago. He was with my Grandma when the accident happened. Your husband saved his life."
Choked with emotion, I couldn't speak. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I grabbed the child and rocked as the tears ran down my cheeks. He said, "Ma'am, I'd like to see you smile. That's why I brought the Poinsettia. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I'd better go. I can come back some day. I’d love to hear stories about you." With that he headed out the door.
“What’s your name?”
“My name’s John, but friends call me Jack.”
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