The best gift our family ever got

I originally posted this on what would have been my younger sister’s 58th birthday, shortly after she died a few years ago. She left us too soon. This year’s holiday season is both bitter and sweet for me. Billie’s loss is still raw and fresh. She, too, left us way too soon. For now, I’ll share a story of my sister. Enjoy the magic of the season. If you are missing someone special, honor them with your tears and a quiet prayer. Enjoy the opportunities to be with the ones you love. Treasure the moments with them.

La Dean, getting ready for a road trip

Christmas of 1953 didn’t have quite the zing that I was hoping for. It looked like Mom wasn’t going to be there. I was eight years old and hoped that it would get better; that it would be like all the magical Christmases before that. There was a wonderful tree and Mom did help decorate it but it didn’t seem fair that she wouldn’t be there on Christmas morning. Dad was there but he had to leave right after breakfast. Bill and Pam were there and so was Gram. I think Ross was even there. It should have been a great Christmas. Under the tree was an electric train set, and a toy 6-shooter and holster. Exactly the gifts I’d wanted.

Mom always made Christmas special. The weeks and days leading up were always exciting. Letters to Santa Claus. Special Christmas treats. Even Advent was fun. We always had an Advent calendar to count off the days until Christmas. Mom and Gram would make special candies and cookies. Gram made  divinity (that she would always apologize for) and Mom would make English toffee.  By Christmas Eve the excitement was boiling. But Mom wasn’t there for that Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

She was in the hospital because there was a new baby. Don’t get me wrong I loved babies. I just didn’t like the timing of this one. I don’t remember why if she was born on December 21st Mom couldn’t be home by Christmas Eve much less Christmas morning.

Well, Mom did get home on Christmas Day (in the afternoon) bringing the best gift ever. When my baby sister LaDean came into the house my glum feelings were transformed to joy and magic.

Over and over again throughout my life I would be enchanted by the magic of the completeness with which she lived her life. This year I had the gift of spending some very special time with her when we knew her life was coming to an end. She lived life with that fullness every day of her life.

Everyone who met LaDean was immediately captivated by the fullness of her enthusiasm. That enthusiasm was a true concern that everyone around her was enjoying life at least as much as she was. She told me last summer that she had to have a belly laugh every day at least once, preferably lots of times every day.

She wasn’t a saint, she could be a bit trying sometimes. If she were here she would adamantly insist that she wasn’t a saint by a long stretch. But she brought her gift into our lives and shared that gift generously with all those around her. That gift transformed people, helped them find the courage in their own resources to get through some very tough times without relying on crutches or victim hood.

Over the years I have had a lot of special Christmases. My first Christmas with Billie was very special and among the most memorable of our Christmases together. Our first Christmas with Ethan was magical. But, if someone were to ask me what was my most special Christmas I would have to say the Christmas of 1953 is number one because LaDean was the best Christmas gift our family ever got. Thank you LaDean for the joy and magic that you brought to so many of us.

2 Responses to “The best gift our family ever got”

  1. Suzanne Fluhr
    December 23, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    A lovely memory, Steve. Sending a hug from Philly.

    • Steve Collins
      December 23, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

      Thank you!

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