Phyllis was eighty years old when she enrolled in our outpatient hospice program with lung cancer. Phyllis, her husband, Floyd, and their six children lived an adventurous life. They lived in Xenia, Ohio for five years; owned and operated a grocery store in Wilmington, Ohio until it burned down; moved to Phoenix, Arizona and then operated a “Stuckey’s” roadside service station-restaurant in the desert between Las Angeles and Los Vegas.
It’s Phyllis’ family’s pilgrimage to Phoenix that is the focus of this story. Here’s Phyllis: “We moved to Arizona because Pam had spinal meningitis. She was around three-years-old at the time. She was susceptible to colds and infections so the doctor told us that we needed to move her to a better climate. We stored our furniture and took what money we had and headed to Arizona, all seven of us in a station wagon. We had five kids at the time, from age two to twelve, and a little dog. All we had with us was our clothes. We didn’t know anybody in Phoenix and when we got there, we stopped at a small hotel to stay the night. When we told the manager our story he said, ‘I have a house just for people like you. It has everything you need. It’s fully furnished.’”
Phyllis reflected, “I always thought that God takes care of you, that there is somebody watching over us; but that proved it to me. We ended up staying there for three months, until we got another house.” Phyllis continued, “Floyd was an architectural cabinet maker. He was good at woodworking. He had references and a good reputation, so he never had any trouble finding a job. He always ended up the manager every place he worked. But things were tough when we first moved to Arizona. We told the kids that Santa wasn’t going to be able to bring them much that year.”
Phyllis’ daughter, Pam, picked up the story from there, “Mom made popcorn balls and dad made a Christmas tree out of them. We opened our presents and we all got wooden airplanes with propellers on them.” For those of you too young to remember, markets and grocery stores used to sell small balsa wood planes for a quarter. You punched out the parts, assembled the plane and threw them into the air and watched them glide. Pam and her siblings got the deluxe model which included a propeller and a rubber band to wind it up. Now back to Pam, “We spent the whole day together flying our planes. We flew them in the dry water canal across the road from our house; that way we didn’t have as far to walk to pick them up. We had hotdogs for lunch and sauerkraut and wieners and mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner.” Phyllis interjected, “We wouldn’t have had hotdogs if my mom hadn’t sent me some money. We only had one or two dollars left to our name.” Pam concluded, “It was the best Christmas we ever had; because we were all together. It was family.”
It’s easy to lose the true meaning of Christmas amidst the hustle and bustle, isn’t it? I’m reminded of the words of the song, “Where are you Christmas?” from the movie, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”: “Where are you Christmas, why can’t I find you, why have you gone away? Where is the laughter you used to bring me, why can’t I hear music play? My world is changing, I’m rearranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too…? I’m not the same one; see what the time has done. Is that why you have let me go… If there is love in your heart and mind, you will feel like Christmas all the time.” In the words of my dear wise friend, Ed, who departed this world at age ninety-five, “If you don’t have Christmas in your heart, you aren’t going to find it under a tree.”
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you; You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager,’” (Luke 2:10-12).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,(John 3:16).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble .