The Christmas decorations are all down and boxed up, waiting to go back into the attic. My living room looks bare without the enormous tree taking up the space in front of the back window. That came down Sunday, after I spent Saturday removing all the ornaments I could reach. John had to get up on the ladder to remove the top ones, and he had to take the tree apart. It is now boxed up and back in the closet for next year. This took some time and effort, and there was a bit of discussion in which John promised me I could hire someone to put the tree up and take it down next year. I think he meant it as more of a threat, or at least a Dire Warning, but I would be happy to hire someone who would not be in a position to criticize my choice in Christmas trees unless he wanted to get his butt fired, and a bad write-up on Angie’s list to boot. I’m just saying.
The rest of the undecorating is pretty much my job, because I’m the one who has picked most of the trinkets, except for the ones we inherited from Eloise. It’s not hard, just time consuming and a little sad. The time consuming part is due to my having over 200 tree ornaments, some of which go in their own little boxes and some in the big plastic ornament storage boxes with dividers, and for some of them I cannot remember which is which. Then I have to figure out which crystal angel goes in which blue box, and which Hummel angel goes in which printed box, and which boxes go up in the attic and which stay down. I should make myself a list, but I would only lose the list.
The sad part is the solo cup ball. Years ago I worked with a little girl, C, who was severely physically disabled due to an infection in utero. The first Christmas I worked with her, her family gave me a Christmas present - a big ball made out of several dozen clear plastic drink cups with Christmas lights strung through each one. They’re called patio balls, and I had never seen one before, but her grandparents made them to sell, and giving them away actually cost them potential income. I thought it was the most hideous thing I had ever seen, but I brought it home carefully, and that night I hung it on the porch. John will put up lights on the porch sometimes, but he doesn’t like to, so I thought I’d at least have something lit out there. Then I went across the street to the mailbox.
When I turned around again I was startled. The light fixture that looked so - unusual - in the daylight glistened beautifully in the dark. I would never have believed it.
C’s story is a sad one. After a few years, she had a bad seizure and fell into a coma. Eventually her parents had to make the hard decision whether to continue extraordinary life-extending measures or to let her go. Fortunately, they were supported by their church in their decision.
I went to C’s funeral, feeling angry. I watched her two brothers running around playing, and I could picture C as she should have been. When the pastor got up to speak, I folded my arms and thought, “This had better be good.”
The pastor read the verse from Matthew 19, verse 14: Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." He spoke about how much C’s brief life had meant to him, and how he had learned from her. My anger slipped away. I don’t know how her parents felt, but I think if it had been me, and if I found anything at all comforting, it would not be words about how God needed another angel in Heaven, but a reassurance that my loved one’s life, brief as it may have been, had an impact on people here.
C would be something like 20 years old by now, if she had lived. My patio ball, carefully treasured, has survived and hangs on my porch every year, a beautiful light that, like C, shines briefly from an unprepossessing exterior, before it goes away.