Christmas came early. It happened a few weeks ago. His family didn’t know how long he had left. So, they welcomed in the holiday from a hospital room.
They made it a good one.
They decorated his walls. There were poinsettias, pinery, wrapped gifts, cheese balls, chicken salad, fudge.
The visitors came and went. First, members from the Methodist men’s group—the same group he met with for thirty-some years. Rumor has it, they even sang through a handful of holiday tunes.
The rehab nurses sang along. He never moved a muscle.
A traumatic brain injury is what landed him here. He’d been standing in his kitchen, late night. Nobody knows how he fell. He hit his head on the counter. He went downhill fast.
But this isn’t about that.
His friends and family came from all parts. His grandkids. His old classmates. People gave gifts: a pair of buck antlers, camouflage suspenders, a T-shirt, get-well cards.
His brothers and sisters visited. His youngest brother brought a photo album. The black-and-white image of a boy with dead ducks in one hand, a rifle in the other.
“God he was a good brother,” he said. “Always looked out for me, always.”
A woman visited. Mid-forties. When she was a girl, he would deliver gifts to her family on holidays. Deliveries started in the 70’s, when her father went to prison.
That holiday season, he’d drawn her name out of a hat in Sunday school class.
But he gave a lot more than holiday gifts. Once, he bought a car for a man who’d been down on his luck. A union steelworker who needed transportation.
He bought a bicycle for a young man on probation. Then, he arranged for the kid to get a job at the local supermarket. He invited the kid to suppers, and family events.
That kid is a grown man with a family of four today.
There’s the eighteen-year-old who showed up to the hospital room. Tall and lanky.
They were hunting buddies. When the boy was eleven, he lived with his single-mother and two sisters. After service one day, our hero approached the boy.
His first words to the kid were: “You like the taste of duck, son?”
“Never had it,” the fatherless boy said.
Wrong answer. They became fast friends, and together reduced the local mallard population considerably.
The boy brought a candle shaped like a red shotgun shell and set it beside the medical bed. He hugged the unmoving body of an old man. He cried.
People filtered in and out of the room all day. There was laughter. There were tears. I understand it was something to see.
And, while I write this, I am looking at a headstone in a small cemetery.
There are white flowers on the gravesite, a photograph of a man holding a little girl. There is a candle, shaped like a shotgun shell.
His daughter is the one who brought me here. It’s a pretty place. She misses him—especially this Christmas. She misses a man who taught her how to give to those who need. To smile at those who can’t.
She comes here to remember. She comes here to cry. But she knows he’s not here.
He’s gone back to where he came from.
Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - December 6, 2017 2:41 pm
Callee Wells - December 6, 2017 3:12 pm
Sean, you make my heart smile…..that deep down smile of the the soul in me that sometimes feels where I came from. Merry Christmas.
Connie - December 6, 2017 3:43 pm
Love. That’s all I have to say about that.
Jan - December 6, 2017 3:46 pm
Your stories provide oxygen for the flame of hope in this world. Please do not let the fire be extinguished!
Pat Byers - December 6, 2017 3:52 pm
i knew from the first paragraph of sentences, i would not get through this one. i didn’t. i rarely do, without the inevitable tears and body sobs. you choose the VERY best of the ‘common’ to write about, and each time we are rewarded with a sense of hope and peace. thank you Sean.
Jack Darnell - December 6, 2017 4:11 pm
I’m pushing 80 now. I have learned that everyone makes a mark. Some are darker than others and last longer. some are faint and fade sooner. BUT, but we all make that mark. You my friend have made a very deep mark and will be remembered for a long time. (I am still working through the first book I have by you!)
Sharon Hand - December 6, 2017 4:14 pm
Charles Vianey - December 6, 2017 4:26 pm
Sean, the Lord has given you the gift of insight into humanity and how to tell a story well. Keep writing.
Marty from Alabama - December 6, 2017 4:28 pm
Strange that the holiday that is supposed to be filled with happiness is often the saddest for some. It is the point in time when you were saddened because of an occurrence that was not happy.
Thank you for reminding us of these times. It happens to all at some time.
You are a jewel. Keep writing.
Dee Frances Wichman - December 6, 2017 5:40 pm
I always enjoy your thoughts from the heart. You give us the best while the news only showcases what is worst with our world. Thank you so much for reminding us that we are not alone.
andoro16 - December 6, 2017 7:34 pm
No words, just tears. Thank you Sean.
Edna Thomas - December 6, 2017 10:18 pm
Just got turned on to your work! Love!!!
Linda Lou - December 7, 2017 2:12 am
I look forward daily to your writings that inspire, challenge and bless me! Thank you!
DD Kivette - December 7, 2017 5:10 am
Your article could have been written about my daddy. But instead of ducks it would have been turkeys. His pallbearers were all young men who he had employed, mentored and taught a trade. Some of them went on to use those skills to start their businesses. Shag Dorroh was a treasure.
Bruce - December 7, 2017 6:25 pm
Darrell Dame - December 8, 2017 12:41 am
So encouraging , I sure appreciate your collumn.
Marian Russell Hawkins - December 8, 2017 12:29 pm
You are a blessing to all who read you.
Mary Anne - December 11, 2017 9:49 pm
Your stories are a blessing to me. Thank you, Sean.