My father died in January 2008 after a long struggle with respiratory problems that resulted from many years of smoking. He smoked when my sister and I were kids even when we begged him not to do it because we were in the backseat of the car on a family vacation. He smoked when my grandmother was in the hospital dying of breast cancer. He smoked when he got up in the morning, when he cut the grass, having dined at night. It was hard to imagine at a time when he had no cigarette in his hand, until his mouth or just lighting up another – even though he did not have a cigarette. had not finished the last one yet.
My father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1982. We were on family vacations in Ireland and England when he got sick for the first time. Five years later, and after a quarter of his right lung was removed, my father was declared without cancer. But the years of smoking had wreaked havoc and persisted with him and caused him many medical problems for the rest of his life.
The months that followed my father's death were some of the most difficult of my life. Not only was my father dead, I had left a job that I had for a dozen years, I had recently divorced, and two of my dear golden retrievers were dead. Like most things in my life, when things get tough, I jump and fight.
I needed a project – something to keep me busy. I think best when I'm busy. Buying and renovating my house with my fiance was probably what kept me in good spirits during those difficult months after my dad 's death. After six months of work, we were finally able to move in and we planned to invite both families to celebrate Christmas Day in our new home.
I knew that the first Christmas without my father would be difficult. But, I did not know exactly how I would feel or what would happen. All I knew was that fifteen people came to dinner and I cooked.
Thoughts crossed my head. The day of Christmas. A house my father has never lived to see. The hours I had worked with him watching me were over. Now it was time to celebrate the holidays with my family. In the back of my head, I was waiting to see him, just tell him, tell me Merry Christmas, and say what a great job we did with the house. But, at the same time, I knew different.
Opening the presentations, my mother handed me a box. Just something for the tree, she says. I unpacked and opened the box and felt the tears begin to burn my face. My fiance was in the other room. Upon entering, he was surprised to see me so upset in front of the tree with my mother. What is the problem? All I could do was give him the box. Inside was adorned with the words: Papa, January 13, 1928 – January 3, 2008.
My mother had found a poem and had carefully typed a part of it on a small card and surrounded her with 39, holiday ornament. The card said: Have a merry Christmas and wipe this tear … Remember, I spend Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.