It’s Christmas Eve at Shady Acres.
For almost twenty Christmases,
shared our carols, our Shrimp Chowder, the ageless Christmas story and the gifts.
Oh, how she loved the gifts!
How fervently she believed in Santa Claus!
Last year, she went to Heaven in October and was buried in early November.
At Stockley Center.
In the cemetery for the indigent and Mentally Retarded.
Then Daddy died and nothing was right about last Christmas. I hardly had time to think about Old Gertrude and how much she loved the season. Besides, there wasn’t much to enjoy last year. Just a new, wrenching grief and so many things for my hands to do that my heart didn’t catch up for several months.
Today, getting ready for our family celebration tonight, the gifts are wrapped, the tree is twinkling, the village is resplendent in it beauty, and, out of the blue, Youngest Daughter says, “You know, I MISS Gertrude so much today.”
Suddenly, the ache in my heart gets wider.
She would have parked herself in the chair beside the tree every night since it went up and would have sang the carols and eaten chocolate, (getting it all over herself!) She would have rubbed her hands together in gleeful anticipation of the packages under the tree, and would have listened as Certain Man read the Christmas story and Christmas prayers were offered. She would have rooted through her Christmas stocking and made a royal mess of things and would have been delighted with stuff that I could have imagined that she wouldn’t have looked at twice, and dismissed the things I chose so carefully with a sniff and an impatient wave of her hand.
I miss her songs and I miss her childlike faith and enthusiasm. I miss her unconditional love and her uncompromising loyalty. She didn’t care if the house was a mess, she loved the simplest things to eat, she made me laugh and sometimes she frustrated me no end. She never wanted to hurry, and she didn’t care if everyone in the house was telling her to move, she would stand where she was and say with dignity and force “Don’t rush me. You’ll cause me to fall!”
The picture above was taken at a small group caroling time several years ago. Old Gertrude never could read, but she loved to pretend that she could. I snapped this priceless photo and it couldn’t be more definitive of what Old Gertrude was like.
For Gertrude. . .
The other day, I passed the place you always liked to go.
And I picked up the phone because I thought you’d want to know.
But I forgot you weren’t there. I miss you all these days.
When I’m reminded of your smile and the funny things you’d say.
I miss you most at Christmas. You were like a little kid.
You always loved a good surprise, and now I must admit
That I long more for Heaven, than I ever did before.
You give me one more reason, and each day I want it more.
Knowing we can spend a lifetime, reminiscing on the past.
Knowing I will see your face again, where tender moments last.
It makes me want to go there, knowing I won’t be alone.
Knowing you’ll be there, makes it easy to go Home.
Lyrics by Guy Penrod