Do not wish for sun, for this may be the last snow.
Do not wish for spring, for this may be the last winter.
Spring will come soon enough,
But this could be the last Christmas.
This will be another Christmas that my brother Jay spends in jail, what we can only assume will be one of many. As we traversed Iowa on Interstate 80, I found myself remembering the last Christmas that Jay spent with our family, just a couple of weeks before his arrest and our worlds as we know ending.
I was in Florida.
We had decided not to come home that year for Christmas. There would be other Christmases, we assumed, and we were tired of being the ones to fork over thousands of dollars to visit every year. Truth be told, we didn’t make the trip in part to prove a point, out of bitterness and resentment that we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to admit. We felt that we had made more of an effort – financially and otherwise – to maintain relationships with people back home than what had been given in return. We’d made more trips home, bought more airplane tickets, spent more hours in the car, and used more vacation days from work.
At the time we made excuses about money and wanting to spend Christmas morning in our own home. While there was certainly some truth to those arguments, it wasn’t the whole truth. The resentment was there, and we let it keep us away.
There would be more Christmases, more trips. This one we could spare to make a point.
While Jared and I drove the kids around to look at Christmas lights that year, my mom sent me a video of she and my brothers singing Christmas carols to me. It would be the last Christmas memory I would have of my oldest brother, the last for a very long time at least.
A video text is small comfort now, an insufficient memory to hold me over for what might be decades.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have spent the money for the memories. I would have worried less about what others gave and focused more on making sure I was giving everything I had before the chance to give was gone. I would have thrown myself into that last Christmas, if only I had known.
But we never know.
So often we spend our lasts – last kisses, last days, last holiday moments – distracted by the prospect of something better. We wait for warmer weather, hope for better circumstances, and completely miss the opportunity to wrap our arms around each other one more time.
In a few days, if I’m lucky, our families will celebrate Christmas together. We’ll open gifts, eat, and go through the motion of tradition. But more than that, we’ll hug, touch, kiss, and laugh. We’ll look into each other’s eyes and have the chance to tell one another how we feel. We’ll say, “thank you” and “I love you.”
I’ll be doing everything I can to make the most of this Christmas, always knowing that this could be our last.