The rusty hinges on the oven door
I suspect there are lots of people like me this Christmas season, people who have lost all members of the family they were born into as well as other loved ones and old friends.
And no matter how many years it has been since their passing, it is at Christmas time when our memory of them becomes most poignant. Oh, if they could only somehow be here to celebrate with us again.
It has been 24 years since Dad died, 21 years since Mom followed him.
Younger sister Linda died 23 years ago in an automobile accident in her mid-50s. Older brother Bootie died five years ago at age 74 of a stroke that left him partially paralyzed for his last four years.
That leaves just me.
Most recently Bonnie and I lost our two sons, both in their 50s. There was 14 months difference in their ages and fourteen months difference in their deaths. Kendall died in a car wreck four days after Christmas 2014 and Kelly died of a heart attack four days before Christmas 2015. We buried him on Christmas Eve.
Linda’s husband, Charlie, a river boat captain; Bootie’s wife, Agnes; a niece, Joanna, a nephew, Chuck …
And, aw, the friends who have gone on.
Poet Alfred E. Housman said it well:
“With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipped maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.
By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipped girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.”
According to the one whose birthday we will celebrate Tuesday, death will be the last great enemy to be destroyed.
When I cross over from this life to the next, I’ll be seeking answers to a thousand questions, from those who are already there, and from Jesus Christ, the Savior.
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Last Christmas Eve nostalgia drove me to turn into the lane leading to the old home place.
For 60 years, from my youth up, I had always spent a portion of Christmas Eve at the home of my parents.
I parked in the familiar parking space just outside their front yard. I thought I saw the curtains in the living room window move and Mom peering out. In the background, I sensed Dad was leaning forward in his easy chair and craning his neck to see who had pulled in. I thought of the many times that I had trailered my boat in there to pick him up for a fishing trip to the river or one of the lakes.
The front door was locked but I had a key. I opened it, then hesitated for a moment on the porch. It seemed I could hear Dad say, “It’s George Samuel. Come in out of it!”
I stepped inside.
My goodness! It was as cold in there as it was outside.
I walked across the floor and heard my footsteps echoing through the empty house.
The kitchen table and chairs and cook stove were still there. I stood and looked at that table and my nostalgia was really playing games with reality. I could see the golden brown, steaming turkey in the middle of the table, surrounded by all the trimmings of those big Christmas Day dinners that Mom used to fix.
Dad was starting to carve the turkey as mom brought a platter of hot biscuits from the oven to the table. My, that sweet aroma.
There, in our younger years, sat brother and sister and me. Then, as images from the past continued flashing through my mind, Bonnie and I were there with our three children, and my brother and sister with their families, all gathered in to grandma and papaw’s house for the Christmas dinner.
O-o-o, those biscuits. Mom rolled out the dough with a rolling pin and cut it into rounds with the top of an empty tin can. Those biscuits seemed to just float out of the oven.
I walked over and pulled down the oven door, half expecting to see the biscuits browning. One of the rusty hinges broke and the oven door fell askance, never to close again.
Where have all the years gone?
I stood, held my face in my hands, and sobbed.
Why was I doing this to myself? Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.
Sadly, I closed the door and walked back to my car.
THE MANGER SCENE
It was late evening when I passed a church with a manger scene out front. His birthday! I’d been so caught up in my own situation that I’d forgotten that that’s what Christmas is all about.
Son of God, son of man. Cut down in the prime of life. Died on a cross, the Scriptures tell us, for our sins.
But he conquered death. He arose from the grave.
And it was he himself who said, “He that liveth and believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
Wow! Talk about a family reunion!
It was growing dark by the time I arrived at my home, which was surrounded by cars. Christmas lights sparkled on the front porch railings. A lighted tree that went to the ceiling was visible through the bay window.
I heard laughter as I crossed the porch and opened the front door.
Perhaps one day my grandchildren, suffering from nostalgia, will come to this house and find it cold and empty, and ask themselves, where have all the years gone?
Be that as it may, this Christmas – good Lord willing – we’re going to celebrate.
Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.