Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Memorial Christmas

My sister-in-law died October 17, 2011.

 Somehow, we managed Christmas. Christmas was hard for my brother – not just because of his immeasurable loss but also because Jayne had always done most of the Christmas stuff – buying the presents, wrapping, baking, decorating, addressing and mailing the cards (Bill put up the tree and created the cards). We all muddled through.

 I didn’t expect much this year. On Christmas morning we gathered in my nephew’s home to open presents. None of us thought Bill would give us anything extraordinary.

 We were wrong.

 Bill gave his younger son the beautiful porcelain cup and saucer that had Jayne had always kept on her dresser to hold her best necklace. Michael had long admired them and the story Jayne told to go with them. When my nephew opened the box, he knew immediately the significance. His thank-you was laced with tears.

 My two great nieces – Emily and Iris – each received one of Jayne’s necklaces – ones that they ‘visited’ every time they were in Bill and Jayne’s home. Now they both have a Jayne memory to cherish and wear. Emily, the oldest – the one who had more Jayne memories – burst into to tears when she saw her present and dissolved into a hug on my brother’s lap – the love and memory of the wonderful woman overflowing (and filling the living room).

 My older nephew’s wife opened a package with the pin Jayne always wore on her coat. Later, Bill told me the story of the pin. Lance (my older nephew) was premature, born when Bill was stationed in Germany. Too small to go home, Lance was on life support in a Munich hospital, 45 minutes from Bill and Jayne’s. Every day for six weeks, Bill and Jayne would drive the 45 minutes to visit their firstborn son, then, later, drive the sad 45 minutes back, with Jayne crying all the way. It was so incredibly hard for both parents, but especially for Jayne. Searching for something to cheer her up, Bill saw a pin with a star sapphire (Jayne’s favorite stone) in the PX at the base and bought it for her as a way to hold the promise that Lance would be okay and, soon, be out of the hospital and home where he could be held forever.

 Bill gave me a beautiful locket that I will cherish but I think the greatest gift of all was being in that living room when all those lustrous mementoes were given to the people who loved Jayne most.

It was a privilege and a memory I will treasure forever.

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