Christmas Eve, at my daughter Kim’s, has been my favorite part of Christmas for many years.  Her home, always decorated so tastefully, is the picture of Christmas.  She is a marvellous hostess, serving delicious appetizers and then, our traditional curry, raita, salad and Indian bread.  The tradition comes from her mother-in-law, Doreen, who grew up in India.

Last night, Chris and I joined all of them, once again, for our annual Christmas Eve festivities.  The family group has changed most significantly this year.  Mike’s brother Jeff is in another country, and his sister Amy and family have moved to North Carolina.  On my husband’s side, our son and family have moved to Bend, OR and daughter Andrea has a new job, where she worked in the morning, and then again tomorrow morning, making the trip from the mountains impossible.

More than the physical absence of these cherished family members, a certain pall was present last evening.  It was present in every hug, every conversation, every moment of eye contact.  Gigi has ALS.  Will this be the last Christmas for her?  We were all sad.

However, we are strong, courageous people and we tried our best to celebrate, pretending that the elephant was not sitting in the middle of the dining room table.  I tried to crack jokes using my iPad, with its computer voice.  We shared, animatedly, telling stories of our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, to Mike’s parents.   Stories of the gorgeous weather, lovely restaurants, charming Mexican peddlers, riding on Jet-Skis, pina coladas by the pool……oh, a what a memorable time!

After a mint chocolate chip ice cream pie, made from scratch and simply divine, I realized that it was time for me to leave.  My neck becomes very tired as so many activities require my head to lean forward.  If I am not in a chair where I’m able to rest it and re-energize, it begins to hurt terribly.  Kim said, “you have to wait until Christopher can show you the video he made for you.”

Christopher is my almost sixteen year old grandson, Kim’s second child.  He is a dancer.  Dancing is as important to Christopher as breathing.  When he was two, he’d jump into his sister’s tutu and twirl around the house, as if he was being led by an angel.  The look on his face reveals the passion for dance that he experiences within.

I was present for his birth.   My son-in-law and I exchanged worried looks as we were told that the cord was wrapped around his neck.  I have never prayed so hard in my life!  And, thank God, he was born without a scratch; quite ugly, actually, but perfect.

And so, Christopher, Kim and I went into the office to watch the movie.  He created it for a school project, which was to be about someone who is important to him.  He gathered numerous pictures of me, put it to music, and he narrated.  He told of how I had always loved him unconditionally; that I encouraged and allowed him to be himself, regardless of how unique an individual he was.  He always knew that I supported him, and that gave him the courage to truly be himself.

All of this is true, but I never realized how much of an impression it made upon him.  He has always been my special boy.  We have attended countless dance performances together, as I wanted to share and encourage his passion.  I dreamed about his attending a school for gifted, artistic children.  The fact that he, so beautifully, created a way to express his appreciation for my love in his life was a gift I could not even imagine.

I have written about my grandmother, Aurora Estes, several times in this forum.  She died when I was Christopher’s age, but the influence she had on my life was profound.  There is not a day in my life that I don’t think of her with love and gratitude.  I never created a letter, or poem, or anything like a movie to share my feelings with her.  Oh, she knew that I loved her, but, I guess she could not have guessed the immense impression her unconditional love would make.  As I have said before, she is the reason that I am okay.

To hear the words Christopher used to express his appreciation for my love and support was so heart warming.  I had never thought that what I have given had impressed him much in the same way, that I was impressed by my grandmother.  Knowing this has made my Christmas a true blessing.  I now know that this beautiful boy will carry my love with him for all of his life.

I am so proud of the human being he is, and always has been.  He has a heart of gold.  He is sensitive, yet driven.  He is the hardest worker I know.  He dances at least twenty-five hours a week after school!  His academic program at Denver School of the Arts is rigorous and challenging, yet he manages to consistently achieve excellent grades.  He is confident, has many friends and he is happy within himself.  He has an incredible sense of humor…….we can share those secret laughs without needing to say a word.  We just “get” each other.  Oh, and he got over the uglies he had at birth!  He is so handsome!

So, in the midst of our family’s sadness, comes the gift of love.  Love so uniquely expressed by a very special young man, for his grandmother, whom he knows is suffering with a terminal illness.   Christopher knows that I will be with him always, in a familiar scent, a song, a memory of shared laughter.  And, I can feel proud that all we’ve shared can never be lost.  Death is a mere transition, not the end.

ALS has given me the opportunity to use the written word to express my feelings and thoughts about life and love.  This disease has also given others the opportunity to share their best selves with me.  I feel so loved and blessed.  I realize that many people live a long lifetime and never get to experience the blessings I enjoy.  My prayer is that through these posts I share, you will be encouraged to be mindful of the people in your lives that bless you; that you will find ways to let them know how much they mean to you.

This is the essence of Christmas.  Love is all there is.

 

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