Sure is quiet around the house here in Ashland this morning.
Linda is sound asleep (as she should be). As usual, she has made our Christmas holiday a beautiful thing, and she is getting some well deserved rest.
A new blanket of snow has fallen overnight - and more is on the way. I'm sure all of the children waking up in our area this morning will be delighted. It brings back memories to me of special White Christmases long ago.
The aroma of the turkey cooking in the oven fills the nearly empty house.
Yesterday was a flurry of activity, as the last minute details were completed for the family celebration. Four generations gathered here in our home for our Christmas get together. The Christmas Story was read from Luke chapter two. Gifts were exchanged, stories told, laughter shared, and much of it was recorded on video. Then it was off to church for our traditional Candlelight Communion Service. Upon arriving back home, there was trash to take out, gifts to put away, dishes to wash, and the general cleanup that follows a family gathering. Linda began preparing the turkey, and then, finally - sleep.
Then comes the quiet Christmas morning.
There is nothing like Christmas morning to remind us anew that our nest is empty - and has been for fourteen years!
The quiet Christmas morning has become the norm for more than a decade. Gone are the days when we were awakened by our little boys who arose before sunrise and rushed to the living room to see what Santa had left under the tree. In those days, Christmas Eve was spent at Mom and Dad's house with my brothers and their families. Then on Christmas morning - after finding the surprises under the tree - it was off on the two hour ride to Pike County, Kentucky to celebrate Christmas with Linda's parents, brothers, her sister and their spouses and children.
The day would always be filled with joy, great food, and the sound of laughter as all the grandchildren played with brand new toys and had to try on the new clothing found in the packages piled high under the tree.
The day always ended too quickly, as we all had to be back to work early the next morning. Hugs were exchanged, goodbyes said, and it was back in the car for the long dark journey home with the two boys who were usually sound asleep by the time we had crossed Hardy Mountain.
It was a special time. The ritual was the same each year, and in the midst of those years, the thought that it would ever change never crossed our minds.
But it has changed, which is simply inevitable.
Children grow up and move away. Grandparents and Great Grandparents who once oversaw the celebrations have now left us. The family dynamic has changed. Loved ones pass away. Alzheimer's steals the memories of some, and the aging process takes its toll upon us all.
Somewhere along the way, our little children grew up and now they are the parents. One son and his family are 1,000 miles away, and they celebrate Christmas on the Bayou. The other son and his family, who still live close by, are tasked with splitting the holiday with two different sets of parents, just as we use to do.
It's the circle of life.
It could be depressing. In fact, Christmas is the saddest time of the year to many. I, however, can only feel joy and appreciation for the gift of living to see another Christmas. It's my sixth Yule season since the diagnosis of incurable metastatic colon cancer. It's my fourth "bonus" Christmas since I should have been dead within two years of the diagnosis. It's one more God given, undeserved blessing that I have to be thankful for. And I am.
Two months ago, I began my 61st trip around the Sun. It's been a great ride so far. I don't know if I will be here to see Christmas 2011. In fact, none of us know what changes may befall us and our families over the next 365 days. Fact is, we have no promise of tomorrow.
What we do have is today.
Make the most of it.
Reflect on the birth of the Savior. Enjoy whatever the day brings you. Be with family if you can. Do a good deed or say a kind word to someone who needs it. Have a good meal. Watch some football, or a rerun of one of your favorite old Christmas movies. Reflect on your blessings, and celebrate the day.
After all, "It's A Wonderful Life".