Christmas with Colleen, 2002
During the last of three Christmas Eve services at Dripping Springs United Methodist Church, I looked up and saw a blond head of hair on a young woman toward the back of the sanctuary. The hair was about the right length and color to be my daughter, Colleen. She was going to try to make the last service as both she and Russell had to work that day and then drive up from Houston. But I didnít know it was definitely she until she reached over her head with her hand and stretched her neck. She always did this to relax.
Several members were involved in singing during the service and we were on stage. As we stood to sing for communion, I excitedly said, "Thatís my daughter, Colleen, from Houston in line right now." Wendy said, "Why donít you go down and share communion with her?" I would have loved to, of course, but rationalized not going for three reasons. I did not want to hurry off stage and create a distraction, I thought it was too late for me to get there in time to be with her and I knew she would like to hear me sing. We both sang, but rarely got to hear the other. Actually, I guess I had never heard her sing except at home and on her recordings. She stayed at the communion rail for quite a while and now, of course, I do regret not joining her.
Toward the end of the service at our church, everyone lights a candle passed from the one Christ Candle and sings Away in a Manger and Silent Night, acapella. I ran toward her, grabbed her hand and we returned to be with my family. We sang the last Christmas songs of the night and raised our candles high in the darkened church, celebrating the joy of being together, and tearfully recognizing how blessed we were. She asked, "Did you hear how high I was singing?" I said that I did and she explained that her Dad had really been working with her on her voice and that she could sing both high and low now.
I proudly introduced her to friends as we left the church. I hugged Pastor Andy and told him Merry Christmas. Then he turned and said, "Hi, Colleen." She lit up with that incredible full-body smile and said, "I canít believe you always remember my name!" and they too hugged.
We returned home where we just chatted and acted like a family for a couple of hours before turning in.
Christmas morning, we exchanged gifts and then ate grits,
eggs and homemade biscuits for breakfast. What I had asked Colleen
for was a copy of her CD, which was not back yet but she
As we started preparing Christmas dinner, I gave different
people different tasks. I knew that Russell was the cook in the house
and asked him to help. I asked him, "Colleen really doesnít
While everything was in the oven, I called my Mother to see if she felt like leaving the nursing home to come eat with us. She said she did not feel like it, but to bring her a bite later. We assured her we would all come visit.
As we sat down to dinner, there was a discussion as to who would say grace. Darcy said, "I want Daddy to," and he did. We all enjoyed our meal and I was surprised that I enjoyed it too. We had Larryís smoked turkey, cornbread dressing (which I can never make like my mother), gravy, spinach salad, cranberry relish, green beans, and sweet potatoes with nut crust. Doug and Russell brought wine. Russell had made a red variety and had put decorative red wax over the cork. It was lovely, plus he brought some mead in tiny bottles, which we had never had. We were too full to eat my apple pie or Sallyís pumpkin pie.
Later as we visited the nursing home, we found Mother without an appetite and very short of breath. After Russell and Colleen left, she cried on his shoulder and said, "I know that is the last time I will see my Grandmother..." I spent Christmas night in the emergency room and ICU.
The next day, Colleen called and told me of their departure and again told me what a great Mother I was and thanked me for everything. She said she just couldnít imagine what I was going through --taking care of and losing my mother. She tearfully said she needed me and that I had so much more to teach her. I assured her that I planned to be around for a while and not to worry. We said "I love you" and goodbye.
Farewell my honey-voiced, fair-haired angel, with eyes
the color of a robinís egg. Sing and smile and fly away home. You
will be in our hearts forever.
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