It came today. Frankly I was worried. When we first spoke, he was hesitant. It seemed time was short and his life was busy. Later, relief came in an email: “We were first in line today at Walmart.” So now we have the smiling photo of our out-of-state grandchildren and we begin the joy of sending out Christmas cards. Thank goodness our son knows the things that matter most to his mother!

I feel the mystery of Christmas as I smile back at the smiling grandchildren and send their smiles to family and friends. I remember their soft tender skin and downy hair as newborns. The gift of a child is a miracle. I feel the same centuries-old love that Mary knew. Just imagine if the beautiful Christmas music Bob Gallagher gives us had been written by women, it would be tender lullabies!

Many joys come to us from our cards. Jim Statton faithfully remarks that our grandchildren are good looking. Throughout the year Vivian Clingenpeel asks what our Vivian is doing, and our college friends note that they are getting big.

But this year is different. Tears come to my eyes as I address one card, to the Wyatt family. You see, our long-time friend Clara came to us after our friends said we needed help with our young family. They were right! We soon found out that she could do anything—clean, polish, even paint. For 25 years she helped us. She lived in Montpelier, so to get to our house she rode with her son-in-law to Broad Street downtown and caught a bus to the West End. When she retired, we sent Christmas cards, with pictures of grandchildren, of course.

A little bit after Christmas, we always got the call that said: “This is Clara. Your grandchildren are so cute. The little girl looks like Jimmy. Do you think the little boy looks like Alec, with that blonde hair?” A dear message, kept on the voice mail to listen to again. But last year the call did not come.

So I called Clara’s daughter and she explained that Clara had a stroke on Thanksgiving, and was getting stronger but could not speak. Yes, she liked company, so I went to see her. She was in her chair, smiling and nodding her head with a loving daughter nearby. I “talked” and we spoke of our babies growing up, funny times, and how much she helped us. Only a few weeks later her daughter called to say that she’d left us.

Her funeral was overflowing with both people and love. All of our hearts were broken. You see, Clara and her husband had ten children. They opened their home to anyone who needed a loving family. They sent their children to college and they loved their church. We met many people who spoke of her quiet love.

After the service Clara’s daughter sent a note: “Our mother would always have your grandchildren’s picture out for us to see each year. She would tell us who each one was with a smile on her face. Thanks for sharing them with us this Christmas….Lovely grandchildren you have.”

The gift of a child. My heart is grateful. I thank my friends for their tender thoughts of our Christmas cards. They bless us all year.