As my younger grandkids and I unpacked the red and green boxes that first year, ready to decorate the house and tree...the twins were concerned about Grandpa's Christmas stocking.
But as I considered returning his to the red container, little Paige shouted "no, you CAN'T put it back in the box, Grandma!"...while her brother chimed in that Santa would know what to do with it. They wondered if God tells Santa when people die. They thought they could take something from their stocking Christmas morning and put it in Grandpa's. They said mine would be sad without Grandpa's next to it.
Sharing these sweet comments with friends; I received the greatest advice of all...fill it with love!
I knew this was the perfect idea, but how? with what? It came to me during a sleepless night as answers often do....write him a letter!
The following week, each child wrote a love note or memory and so did I. Overthinking it again, I pondered the logistics of empty stockings hanging in anticipation, Santa's long, busy night and the early-risers rushing down stairs the next morning. "Just stick them in his stocking right now" said one of the twins. "Yeah, it will be a surprise for Santa and...he'll know what happened." whispered the other five-year-old. How wonderful children are at solving the quandaries of life!
Can you feel the comfort? Can you imagine how my little gesture helping the twins through this difficult time had in fact been quite powerful; helping me embrace that first holiday in 47 years without my guy.
Alone, I read and reread them. I sensed the importance they felt in doing this. The older girls nailed it beautifully in their lengthy letters. They recalled his goofy stories and making them giggle over and over again; how he made them feel special for being who they were.
The oldest commended him for being a great role model; with his "great combination of high intellect and street-smarts" and how she loved swimming with him in her early years and learning to drive with him this past summer. Her sister was proud she has his writing skills and sense of humor! "You were perfect, Grandpa, because you were very wise and very funny" she wrote. They both know he is with them in their hearts. And I loved their promise to keep calling my home the Grandma and Grandpa's House!
The little ones' were shorter, but their I Love You with hearts and I Miss You with drawings of Grandpa were just as meaningful! The colored ink and curvy, carefully cut edges around their notes make them extra special. These are my treasures now.
Ten stockings now gather around the tree on Christmas Eve (once filled, they become too heavy to hang I've discovered.) But Grandpa's hangs just fine by the fireplace...packed full of love.
After all the gifts have been opened, our attention and excitement will turn to the stockings. After they've been emptied.....with toys whirring and buzzing and candy and cookies crunching...we'll read and listen to Grandpa's letters and remember all the wonderful things about him!