This archived article was written by: Shantel Hardy
Christmas 2010 will always be my most cherished Christmas. Grandma Harris stayed with my family from Thanksgiving day until New Years day, every year. Sometimes she would stay even longer, which never bothered us. Mom, dad, brother, sister and I cherished spending the holiday season with her. Our favorite was Christmas; it was always better with her there. This particular Christmas may have seemed normal to anyone but my family. This year we didn’t get to pick her up from her beloved home, but from the nursing home where she resided.
Christmas Eve always meant the women would be in the kitchen preparing the Christmas day’s meal while the men played games and stayed out of our way. Grandma’s fake cherry cheesecake, mom’s cheese ball, ham, a vegetable tray, and more scrumptious Christmas delicacies were begging to be made and gobbled up. Grandma didn’t help cook this year.
She sat at the kitchen table with an oxygen tube under her nose, her “leash” leading to the noisy machine down the stairs. She would take turns watching my mom, sister and I prepare the food and looking downstairs at my dad and brother playing X-box. We were done in the kitchen; all the food was ready for Christmas. Everything but the cherry cheesecake, it wasn’t made this year.
We each opened one gift, which is a Christmas Eve tradition in our household. Somehow, us kids always get pajamas. It was a lovely evening full of relaxation and lots of Christmas programming on the television. Excited for the morning to arrive, each sleepy eyed, tired bodied person sunk into their soft beds.
Waking up early to eager siblings and waiting for grandma to carry her fragile self up the stairs seemed to take an eternity. Finally, mom and dad gave us the cue to come into the present packed room where the tree stood shining bright and tall. Looking around the room, each face showed extravagant smiles. Not for the gifts, not for the delicious meals to come, not for the sweet aroma of Christmas morning but, for a precious moment we all knew would be the last.
Grandma had suffered a stroke that left her speechless, her health declining. She didn’t let that change anything. She still sat with her untouched gifts at her feet, just as she did year after year, because she enjoyed watching my siblings, parents and I open ours first. She was happy. You could see it in her smile and stunning blue eyes. She showed that although her life was being cut short, it was how she wanted to spend her last Christmas, with family.
Love intoxicated the souls filling the room that cozy Christmas and each person savored the seconds spent with Grandma. She couldn’t say “Thank you for the gifts”, she couldn’t exchange the words “Merry Christmas” or tell each person “I love you”. But her hugs so warm and her eyes so dazzling said it for her. I will never forget the last Christmas spent with Grandma. It was a special Christmas that is forever engraved on my family’s hearts. It was the Christmas I remember best. A Christmas for Grandma.