I remember it very well. The year was 1990 and we were all together on Christmas eve. Buelah had prepared a special menu and the table set with her finest china, complete with a centerpiece that featured red candles. Our son’s eyes reflected the flickering candle light. It was a very special time in our home and excitement was in the air.
I have always been the one with the camera, making sure to snap a group shot around the Christmas table, just before we joined hands and prayed. However, on this Christmas, I had a strong desire, almost a compulsion, to take more pictures than usual. I couldn’t explain it at the time. I just kept on shooting the pictures, taking several of each person. These were the days before our phones were used for cameras and I shot several rolls of film on my 35 mm Canon.
I had no idea it would be our very last Christmas together. Just a few days later, on the morning of February 6, 1991, I found our older son, Denny, had died in his sleep. He had been treated for “Mono” and given medication to help with his pain. We never knew with certainty, the cause of death. The death certificate simply reads, “Cause of death…’complications due to mono.’” So, for the last twenty-five years, Christmas has been very different for our family. Looking back, those first few years are nearly wiped from our memory. We somehow made it through Christmas after Christmas, staring at the empty chair and asking, “why?” Christmas and all other holidays were tolerated as we somehow made our way through them. For several years, I couldn’t make myself look at those pictures of our last Christmas together. Now, I find them to be priceless.
Let me ask a question, “If you knew this would be the very last Christmas with your family, how would you celebrate it?” I can imagine you would want everyone with you around the table set with your favorite holiday food. No doubt you would light the candles, perhaps share the Christmas story and once again affirm your love for one another.
Here in our home, the old Canon has been replaced by the Apple Iphone. But I will still be shooting the pictures and telling everyone around the table just how much I love them…as though it were our last Christmas. How about you?