This is a five page story of our last Christmas together with our two children. The year was 1999. I read this to my family on Christmas Eve this year, and of course, we all got a little emotional. I felt myself trembling as I read aloud my most precious memories of that holiday season. Afterwards, I was approached with hugs and was told that I did a good job with this and they were very proud of me. I also sensed that my mother felt relieved that I had finally let everything go from inside. I have tried to tell her in the past that scrapbooking was my therapy. Maybe I have finally conviced her that it is.
We lived this holiday season as if it were our last one together, not knowing that it really and truly was. The death of our daughter, Rachel was yet to come in the months that followed, and Eric would be leaving home soon after.....
Christmas was drawing near, and it has always been my most favorite time of year with family. I've always been good at spoiling my two children at this time, but this year was unlike any other, because 'Santa Clause' couldn't resist the temptations of buying anything and everything in sight that would make for a longer Christmas morning. And after seeing the end result, I can say that I achieved my goal.
I worked very hard at getting the presents wrapped and placed under the tree as soon as they were purchased, so that I wouldn't be swamped with gift wrapping at the last minute. I wrapped all of the presents in the bedroom (with the door locked), and every time I left the room with a present in my hand to place under the tree, Rachel would stop what she was doing and follow me so that she could see who it was for. She looked under the tree every day and every night to see if anything had been added to the collection, and if there was anything for herself or Eric, she would excitedly let everyone know. On several occasions (when he thought no one was watching), Eric would sneak a peek on his own. When he looked up and saw that I was watching, with a slight grin, he'd casually walk away as if he wasn't that interested.
A few days before Christmas, I was admiring the tree and I couldn't help but notice how it overflowed with gifts. Well, I knew that Eric and Rachel had a lot of presents, but out of curiosity, I pulled all of the presents out from under the tree and into the middle of the floor to get a count. I counted a second and third time to be sure that I had not miscounted and after doing so, discovered that they had about twenty-five presents each. I was surprised, but not surprised at myself for getting so carried away with Christmas but, I was born a shop-a-holic, so take that and go figure.
Christmas morning had finally arrived and Garrett's family was there to spend it with us. The breakfast menu consisted of doughnuts from the bakery along with coffee, juice or milk to drink. A big Christmas dinner was scheduled for late afternoon.
With Christmas music softly playing in the background, Eric and Rachel sat on the floor eagerly waiting to open their presents. I handed them their gifts, one at a time, and Rachel quickly tears into each one as if she's competing in a race. Eric slowly and carefully opens his. (The two are like night and day). Along with things for pure enjoyment, they got a lot of clothes. Rachel was so excited over her two pair of shoes because they were stylish and made her taller (she hated being the shortest in her class at school). Eric's biggest excitement was over a boom box, something he had wanted for a long time. And then came the most precious, sweet moment between the two that made me so proud, that even today as i watch the video, it brings a tear to my eye. Rachel looked under the tree, found what she was looking for and presented to Eric a gift that was from her. He gladly accepts it and starts to open right away. A smile and a pleased look shows on his face as he discovers a Titans ball cap inside. He immediately places it on his head, looks at Rachel and says, "Thank you, Rachel." He reaches out for her to come by his side so that he can give her a hug. In exchange for all of that, Eric has a present for Rachel as well; a soft and cuddly brown teddy bear for her to love when he's away from home. Moments like this are priceless, and I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life.
Christmas is much different now. Rachel is no longer with us because God called her home. She is now an angel in heaven. Ten years later, Eric is reunited with her. So now, he too, is an angel.
I now look back to that Christmas morning and remember what a happy time it was, and I am so glad that I got a little carried away with buying their presents that year, because that was our last Christmas together. I don't recall ever doing that before, so I often wonder if it was just meant to be that way. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it was.
Although it is difficult, I know that life must go on without them. I used to think that with each passing day, they were drifting further away from me. But I now look at each passing day as one day closer to seeing them again. So, I patiently wait for that day to arrive. Until then, their memories remain alive.