(This was originally written for the Youth Ministry E-News-December 2012 Edition.)
My husband Chris grew up on the coast of Mississippi in a small ship-building town called Pascagoula. His Grandmother, Mary Evelyn, (also lovingly known as: Grandma Clemens), lived a short mile away from the family in a 1000 sq ft post-war home typical of the area. Grandma Clemens was a small lady, not standing taller than 5ft 3, but was a legend in the small town and was well-loved. She worked until she was 86 and attended mass every morning before work. Her house was small, just like her, but had withstood the brunt of many a hurricane and survived.
As my husband recalls, every Christmas, Grandma Clemens would set up an artificial, six foot Christmas tree on the back porch of the house. It was a pretty tree, from the department store, with ornaments that had little angels inside. The multicolored lights were the big, bulky ones and the gold tinsel garland glittered against the backdrop of Grandma's back yard. That tree captured my husband's imagination when he was a small boy.
One year when Christmas had ended, my husband begged his Grandma to not take the tree down. It was so beautiful that he wanted to see it every time he came to visit. Grandma, in her generosity agreed and left the tree up. As Chris grew, he would happily visit "his" Christmas tree on the back porch.
Time passed when it was time for my husband to bring his fiancée home to visit the family (That was ME, by the way...for those of you not paying attention!) The first place we visited was Grandma Clemens in her house.... and by golly, there was that Christmas tree, quite a bit dustier (and older) still sitting on the back porch waiting for Chris to come home from Texas where he had been studying. By this time, Grandma was easily in her 70s, but was still working her job at the shipyard. The tree had been up for over 20 years.
The time came when Grandma Clemens was too old to care for herself and needed to be moved to an assisted living arrangement. Chris's parents asked him and his brothers if there was anything they wanted from Grandma's house. Each grandson asked for a few items to remember the old, tiny, house...but Chris? He asked for the Christmas tree. We bagged that tree up and hauled it to my parents' home in Texas where it would be kept safe.
A few weeks later, Grandma's home was destroyed when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and Grandma Clemens went home to be with her beloved a few years after that. Those were sad events for the Clemens family, but we were thankful for the many wonderful years we had in that house and with Grandma.
What about the tree? It survives still..... right along with Grandma's spirit and the true meaning of Christmas. Every Christmas it illuminates the Texas night on the front porch of my parents' house, waiting for family to come visit and reminding us that Christmas, like Grandma, is always in our hearts.
Happy Advent/Merry Christmas everyone!