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Daddy's Last Gift

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Last Christmas With Daddy

December 25, 2020 was my sweet Daddy's last Christmas with us. He passed away from complications of Covid-19 just two short months afterwards on February 25, 2021. He was 86 years old. His passing came on the heels of losing my 80-year-old mother just five months earlier on September 1, 2020. Daddy was still in deep mourning over losing Moma, and rightfully so, but he put on a brave face for me and my brothers all throughout the holiday season. As was our usual tradition when Moma was living, I went over and put up a tree, set out some decorations, made a holiday wreath for the front door, and helped Daddy wrap a few gifts. On Christmas Eve, as we had done so many Christmases ago, we all met at my parent’s house for dinner, bringing Daddy’s favorite foods as well as our OWN brave faces to help keep what little bit of holiday spirit we had, alive.

My sweet Moma and Daddy

My sweet Moma and Daddy

I watched Daddy as we ate, and then later as we tore into wrapped presents, laughing and joking like old times. A couple of times I heard him mention through tear-stained eyes how “it just didn’t seem right” without Moma there. He missed her more than life itself, and his loss was felt even more keenly at Christmas. Still, Daddy put forth his best effort to make Christmas as special that year as it had been for us the past sixty years before. He even went out shopping by himself and picked out unique gifts for each of us. I was pleasantly surprised at his shopping skills even at his advanced age, and despite our mother not being here to advise him. I remember my gift was a lovely white leopard printed winter vest. Little did I know it would be the LAST gift I would receive from my sweet Daddy.

Me in the leopard print vest Daddy gave me for Christmas

Me in the leopard print vest Daddy gave me for Christmas

First Christmas Without Them

Fast forward to Christmas of 2021 and with BOTH our parents gone, my brothers and I tried our best to keep up tradition as best we could, except instead of meeting at our parents now empty home, we met at my older brother’s house. The Christmas eve dinner was still a feast and consisted of many of Daddy’s favorite foods – ham, turkey, Southern style collards and butterbeans, deviled eggs, chicken salad and Daddy’s famous cornbread - all lovingly prepared by my sister-in-law. For dessert, I brought chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and Daddy’s favorite – old fashioned chocolate pie. And although I couldn’t taste or smell anything due to losing my sense of taste and smell from Covid last July, my brothers attested that the pie was “Daddy approved.” In fact, I think the whole meal would have been.

After dinner, we journeyed into the living room to exchange gifts. We laughed and joked as we once again tore into our presents with the excitement of a ten-year-old on Christmas Day. And then I presented everyone with memory pillows I had made from Daddy’s shirts. My niece was the first one to let out the tears. Others followed with quiet sniffles as they held the pillow close to their heart. And while it was not my intent, the cheerful holiday mood quickly turned somber as we all realized our “greatest gifts” – our parents – were no longer there with us. Still, I hope those memory pillows will be a lasting gift of special memories of our father that will keep on giving day after day.

Memory Pillows

Memory Pillows

The Greatest Gift of All!

They say the first year without your parents is the hardest. “They” are right. As much as I tried to “get into” the spirit of the holidays, my heart just wasn’t in it. I put up a tree, decorated, baked goodies and did my Christmas shopping, but nothing fulfilled that constant aching of loss deep down in my heart. And while the gifts I received from everyone were very nice, the gift I treasure the most is the last one I received from my Daddy LAST Christmas. Not because of what it was, but because it was the last thing my Daddy ever picked out especially for me, and because it has so many precious memories attached to it of that last Christmas with my Daddy.

Merry Eternal Christmas in Heaven Moma and Daddy! Christmas will NEVER be the same without you again, but you left us the GREATEST gift of all - your LOVE!

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