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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: The Living Tree
By Heather Sargent


Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

Leah's soft voice floated over her grandmother like a gentle breeze. Nancy had held on as long as she could. She vaguely heard the voices of her family talking amongst each other. They had held vigil at her bedside for many days now in the respite room of the local hospital. She knew it was time, it was in God's hands now. He knew each of them intimately, he would watch over them as they try to bear the burden of the profound grief and sorrow they would no doubt feel.

That saved a wretch like me...

She had been the family leader for so many years, always doing more than she should for each of them. Would they know how to cope without her guidance? Well they would have to, her time had come, early though it may be at the young age of 64 with a body well beyond its years. They'll adjust.

I once was lost, but now I'm found...

Her heart, in all its weakness had strength enough for one last breathless prayer. Be with my family, Lord, especially the babies, they'll need you. With that, she drew her last ragged breaths in this world.

Was blind but now I see.

Leah's heart skipped a beat as she saw her grandmother take two quick gasps of air, then no more. Tears spilled from her eyes as she summoned the others to Nancy's bedside. “She's gone,” she said softly as she closed her eyes. “She's gone.”

My heart sank.


I knew it was coming, thought I was prepared but when all was said and done I was lost. My cousin, Misty and I just stood speechless at our grandmother's bedside. I saw Misty's shoulders heaving as the reality hit her, we were now alone in this world. Always the black sheep of the family we had a special bond. Our grandmother was the only one ever in our corner. She fought for us and held us close as if we were helpless babes. I suppose to her maybe we were. Now here we were like two cubs without their mama.

Though she was my grandmother she had filled the role of mother from the time I was an infant and sheltered me from all the cold shadows of the world. As the terrible ache of loneliness and sorrow crept in my heart that night in the hospital room, I could swear I felt the wind blow.

After we said our goodbyes we gathered her belongings to take home. As I unplugged the tiny Christmas tree it occurred to me, she didn't make it to Christmas. It was her favorite holiday, she did it big every year, and now she wouldn't be here to enjoy it. Who would bring the magic of Christmas to the family? My heart wasn't in it this year, not without her.


My husband, James held me close as we left the room, teary-eyed kiddos in toe. “How are we supposed to have Christmas now?” I whispered to him. “We haven't even decorated. The kids are going to be even more disappointed. What should we do?”

“What we do right now is celebrate her life. She gave each of you life, now we owe it to her to live it. Just one step at a time. We start by going home,” he said. The compassion I saw in his blue eyes made me melt into his warmth as we walked to the Jeep. I could always count on him.


We climbed up the steps to the house with seemingly lead feet. As James opened the door my eyes caught sight of the most beautifully decorated tree. It was glorious in all it splendor, much more wondrous than I recall it being before.

“Surprise!” he said with a half-hearted smile.

Tears fell immediately as my breath escaped me. “You did this?” I found it hard to find words.

“For you and the kids. You should celebrate her life this Christmas, she would want it that way. She would want you to go on.”

We held the kids tightly in front of that tree for what seemed an eternity, I felt her in that moment letting me know it was a good thing to live, even though it was without her, my grandmother, my mother, my best friend.


In loving memory of Nancy Lucille Golberg. 1/14/42-12/18/06.

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This article has been read 692 times
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Carole Robishaw 10/16/08
This was very touching. A very good story to share of how we need to keep going and celebrate life, not death. Thank you
Lollie Hofer10/16/08
Thank you for sharing your story. It took me back to my father's death which was 10 days before Christmas in 1985. He also died young (60 years of age). You did an excellent job of describing the sorrow and joy in grieving the lost of a loved one at Christmastime. This was a well-written piece.
Marlene Austin10/17/08
Emotion filled, tenderly written personal narrative. Love the husband's encouragement that the life lived after the loved one's passing would honor her. Thank you for sharing this piece. :)
Lisa Keck10/17/08
Thankyou for sharing. In loving memory of Nancy Lucille was touching. It was well-structured and the point is well taken without being overdone. It isn't the same without them but our mother's and grandmother's would want us to celebrate the real Reason for the season.
Lisa Keck10/17/08
Nancy Lucille Goldberg--sorry it's been a long day. I also liked how Amazing Grace was woven in.
Leah Nichols 10/23/08
The POV shifted between first and second section, but that doesn't draw away from the excellent writing you did on this piece. Nice work!
Karlene Jacobsen10/23/08
What a lovely way to honor those who've gone from our lives. Celebrate their life. I love that.
Congratulations on 2nd place.
Sheri Gordon10/23/08
Congratulations on your 2nd place. The format of this is very good--and the story brought tears to my eyes. Nice job with the topic.
lynn potter10/23/08
Heather, Nancy Lucille has a beautiful grandaughter/daughter. You must have been her delight. She is honored as I read this. What a wonderful piece! Her memory lives on in your writing, never give up. Continue writing. She is watching, proud, with a great big smile on her face cheering you on.
It has been a great experience reading your piece, full of wonder and magic. Left me feeling hope and joy... Keep it up! Write on...
Heather Sargent10/23/08
Thank you so much everyone for your awesome comments and red tape! This was the story of my grandmother and most of it was true. =)
Carole Robishaw 10/23/08
Heather, way to go girl!!!! I knew this was a good one.
Sharon Kane10/24/08
Very moving entry and a well-deserved placement. Your grandmother obviously holds a very special place in your heart. And your husband is a hero if he managed to pull off getting the tree up during such an emotionally stressful time!