Saturday, December 24, 2011

One of my favorite stories gets pulled out every year when I once again set up our Christmas crèche. Inside the box is stored this story:

When Ken and I were first married, we bought a complete crèche scene and painstakingly painted and antiqued every piece. We still have all the pieces, minus one chip out of the donkey’s ear, knocked off the shelf by the family cat. We never did find that missing ear and finally decided that the crèche was just perfect without it!

As our children grew, however, the crèche took on “other” meanings during the Christmas season. Our kids had a lot of fun changing the scene. One year the shepherds and wise men formed a rock band, complete with little guitars and drums. Another year, Sylvester the Cat would show up in the scene. Or various animals would roam the stage. Or the smurfs. Or whatever action figures happened to be in vogue at the time. Our kids recreated life, mostly in fun.

But one year, as we were waiting to have our Christmas eve dinner, we got a phone call from our middle son. He had pulled out into oncoming traffic, driving my car, and been hit by a car he hadn’t seen coming. He and his girlfriend were fine, but shaken up, and we interrupted our planned events to go and sort things out.

When we returned home, the crèche had mysteriously morphed into a new scene, complete with a wrecked toy car with shepherds and wise men all looking on with concern. Joseph was on the phone, Mary was sitting at the dinner table waiting for the family. And above it all, the angel hovered, having done her job, keeping everyone safe.

Today the crèche sits, undisturbed by the hands of children, awaiting the next generation’s take on the meaning of Christmas. And, after a half hour search in my completely disorganized photo storage system, I found the picture! If you look closely, you can even see the missing donkey ear.

My grandson, Caleb, when he was 2-1/2, added to our story.  He and I set up my Playmobile creche scene. It has a cardboard backing with a stable and door. We set up the camel, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the angel. I was waiting for Caleb to begin acting out the story of Christmas. Caleb picked up a shepherd and resolutely walked him over to the stable door. "TRICK OR TREAT!" he yelled!

Guess we've got a little way to go til he gets the story down!

(Photo by mharrsch, shared via Flickr)

PS: Last  year, thanks to my crazy husband, the creche was visited by a Queen, a Rook and a Pawn, in celebration of then 6-year-old grandson Gavin's new interest in the game of chess!   Send me your creche stories!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Final Approach

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Susan, went into the bathroom and never came out.  She was in perfect health, age 57, a vibrant woman with a meaningful career and many family relationships that needed some tending.  She died of a massive heart attack and was discovered by her family members.  In October, I lost a dear friend to a sudden brain aneurysm.  It has been a hard couple of months.  Susan's husband wrote an amazing tribute to her for her memorial service, and I would like to quote it in its entirety here.  To see the post in its original setting, click here.

I can't stop thinking about this poignant reminder that life is short and precious.  May we all keep short accounts and be constantly aware that all of life is terminal.  Here is Mike's eulogy:

I'm currently writing a book called, We Will Be Landing Shortly, with the subtitle, Reflections on Being Terminal. The title is a phrase I’ve heard on every flight I’ve ever taken for almost forty years—and it’s always bothered me.

Whenever the flight attendant chants this mantra, I want to stand up and shout, “I don’t want to land SHORTLY! I want to make it all the way to the runway!” But this would only get me arrested by the sky marshal.

Back in the last century, I was a frequent flier. I used my trips as occasions to do a quick life-check. I would ask myself as the plane readied for takeoff if I was ready to go in the ultimate sense of the phrase. If things came to mind that needed attention, I wrote them down and purposed to address them as soon as possible. It proved a healthy discipline.

Susie’s death on Thanksgiving Day is a solemn reminder that we all are on “final approach.” Some of us will have time to get our seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position. Others will crash with little warning and no time to prepare. The one invariable is that every one of us will be landing shortly.
Susan was ready because of how she lived her life every day, in public and in private. I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye so soon. Her legacy is her family and the thousands of people she blessed over the years.She always had open arms, a listening ear, a non-judgmental heart, an accepting nature, an inviting smile, a steadfast faith, and treats for her grandkids.

Susan wasn’t perfect. She never got the hang of gossip; didn’t know how to carry a grudge; couldn’t keep her checkbook closed when it came to others, would accept just about anybody as a friend, and routinely welcomed strangers into our home for months at a time.

I know where Susan is and I’m happy for her and at peace. I expect to join her some day. Maybe then she can explain to me what in the world God was thinking when he left me without adult supervision … and why he let her cut in line in front of me.

Susie, you can never be replaced, and you will never be forgotten. I love you deeply; always have, always will.