Jim broke two eggs into the skillet, then punctured the yolks with a fork. He smiled as he stirred.
“..and the two shall become one.”
The intended recipient of the bounty sat silently, a plastic bib snapped around her neck.
“Holly, it’s Christmas morning. Remember our traditional breakfast when the kids were young?” He paused. “Breakfast pizza and gooey rolls! I remember you used to stay up ‘til all hours putting that casserole together on Christmas Eve.”
He pushed the eggs around slowly with the spatula. Scooping them up on a plate, he carried them proudly to where she sat. Lifting a spoonful to her mouth and pressing it gently against her bottom lip, he lovingly placed the contents into her slightly open mouth.
“Remember the stockings? You picked out treasures perfectly suited to each child. Remember that toy hamster you found that danced and sang to a breakdance song? It was Ben’s. Right?” He searched into her blue grey eyes for some spark, but she’d moved out many years ago. Fifteen years had passed since Alzheimer’s ripped into her. At first, she’d only misplaced things, then she misplaced herself, and, finally, she’d misplaced her family.
Jim wasn’t complaining, for it was through having to take her place that he could truly appreciate all the love she had given. She’d fed him, now he’d feed her, pure and simple. As he lifted another spoonful to her lips, he thought about her sacrifice. Never earning any money of her own, laying aside her own dreams to make a loving home…. He had risen to the top of his occupation as an International Airline Captain only by her taking his place. She’d wiped up vomit and changed sheets. She’d attended the ball games, the school conferences, the high school performances when he, traveling the world, was unavailable. She was truly the wind beneath his wings, and so, when the time came when she became frightened when he wasn’t nearby, he clipped his wings and never looked back.
Tenderly he wiped the remnants of egg from her mouth, then pushed her wheelchair into the bedroom. “The kids will be coming in two hours. Time to decorate my Christmas tree!” He began her sponge bath. He lovingly removed her nightgown and placed a towel over her to chase away the chill, though she was well beyond complaining. Going to the closet, he took out a festive Christmas sweater. A lap robe would, of necessity, finish the ensemble. He brushed her greying hair and added a Christmas bow to keep it from falling in her eyes. He stood back momentarily and gazed at her with admiration. She was his shining star.
Long ago, he used to tease her, saying that, if he died before her, he’d take a lawn chair outside Heaven and wait until she arrived, certain that if he’d wait, that he could live in her mansion instead of the shack he’d, no doubt, earned. He now realized that she’d given him one more gift: by emptying herself and allowing him to grow through sacrificial service to her, he felt certain that he, too, would now feel at home in Heaven. Jim secretly felt that Holly wouldn’t leave him until he’d filled up the basket of love she’d emptied in service to him and the kids. It was a bushel basket, and he’d started very behind.
He smiled as the kids arrived, each kissing her on the cheek and hugging her. She was a gift that had been opened and emptied…for them…and they knew it instinctively. Christmas was always her favorite holiday, the time when her gifts of cooking, service and hospitality magically came together. And so it seemed only fitting that Holly left him on that very night.
“The first face she’ll recognize in eight long years will be that of Jesus,” he mused as everyone sang “Silent Night.” He wiped away some tears. No one thought it out of place. He’d known she was gone a half hour before. Her head bowed as it had so many times, as if she’d fallen asleep, but they’d become so close that he could feel her love leave the room, like a sigh. The kids would be told she died in her sleep, as, indeed, she did.
Alone now, he walked in back of her wheelchair. Gently wrapping his arms around his Holly one more time, he softly kissed her hair. “I love you with a love unending,” he whispered, to her…and her Maker.
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