What was the best Christmas you ever had? What was the worst?

Thinking back over my life thus far, I have the best and the worst Christmas memory. I’ll start with the worst so that I’m not crying at the end of my blog.

The worst Christmas ever:

On December 19, 1995, my daddy died. I received a call from my parent’s next door neighbor that morning. I was getting ready for work when the phone rang. Daddy had collapsed in the bathroom. My mother found him, panicked, called her neighbor, Mr. Funderburke, who in turn called 911. The paramedics arrived, performed CPR, put him in the ambulance, and rushed him to the hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

When the first phone call came, Mr. Funderburke informed me that Daddy was in the ER. An hour later, he called back to tell me Daddy had died. It wasn’t unexpected. Daddy’s health was in decline for many months. He had no quality of life. Although tears filled my eyes, it was also a relief to know he was at peace. I remember thinking, “How am I going to tell the kids? It’s almost Christmas. It’s going to break their hearts. Especially Sandi’s.” Sandi is my oldest daughter. She was apple of my daddy’s eye. They were best of buds. Practically joined at the hip, those two. He adored her, and she adored him. Sandi was in the Air Force at the time, stationed at MacDill AFB, which meant she had to drive in from Florida. Noel, my middle daughter was in high school. Ashlee, my youngest daughter was in elementary school. After I got in touch with Sandi, I went to Noel’s school to tell her, then to Ashlee’s school to tell her, and then took them home. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. They were all devastated. My husband, David, met us at home and we made plans to fly to Atlanta.

Every year we always bought a live Christmas tree. This particular year we did the same, but something about this tree seemed different. It didn’t hold its needles well, and started shedding within two days of purchasing it. We tried sugar-water, tree vitamins, and tree food but nothing worked. That day, December 19th, when I brought the kids home from school, we walked in the den to find the tree had died. We just left it. There was no time to fuss over it. Since I’m an only child, I needed to get to my mother quickly to help her with the funeral preparations.

It was a sad time for us all. It was the worst Christmas ever. And I’ve never had a live tree since.

The best Christmas ever:

When Sandi and Noel were little, David’s parents gave each of them a crystal Christmas tree ornament with their name etched on it.

SANDI-NOEL-ornamentAshlee wasn’t born at the time. Each Christmas we let them put their ornament on the tree. It became a tradition. When Ashlee was born, David thought it would be a good idea to get a crystal ornament for Ashlee with her name etched on it. And so we drove over to the store where his parents had purchased Sandi and Noel’s ornaments only to find it had gone out of business.

At the time, Ashlee was just a baby and not aware of the ornaments. But we were very disappointed anyway. We really wanted her to have one. So the search began to find a store that sold these types of ornaments. After several months of looking to no avail, we gave up. It was no use. We couldn’t find a store that carried the ornament.

When Ashlee was two years old, she noticed Sandi and Noel’s ornaments. She pointed to them, smiled, and said, “Pretty, Mommy, pretty.” She loved them, but didn’t know Sandi and Noel’s names were on them. Then at the age of three, she recognized their names and said, “Ashlee wants one too, Daddy.” Our hearts just broke. We didn’t know how we would be able to find another ornament.

I know this must sound like the worst Christmas ever, but you don’t know my husband. He was determined to move heaven and earth to find a crystal ornament for Ashlee. To this day, I don’t know how he did it, but he found a crystal ornament that looked exactly like Sandi and Noel’s ornaments. He had Ashlee’s name etched on it and put it away until the Christmas of 1986 when Ashlee was four years old.

We were decorating the Christmas tree when David reached into the box and pulled out first Sandi’s ornament and then Noel’s ornament. I looked over at Ashlee. The look on her little face was gut-wrenching. But I knew it was about to change. Sandi opened her silver ornament box and put her ornament on the tree. Then Noel opened her silver ornament box and put her ornament on the tree. All the while, Ashlee followed their every move with eyes of longing and sadness.

After Sandi and Noel put their ornaments on the tree, David said, “What’s this? Ashlee, come here and look. I think there’s something in the ornament box for you.”

Reluctantly, Ashlee walked over to the ornament box. David reached in and pulled out a silver box. It looked just like the silver boxes that held Sandi and Noel’s ornaments. Ashlee’s face went from forlorn to glee. When David opened the silver box and held out the crystal Christmas tree ornament with the name “Ashlee” etched on it, Ashlee’s eyes got as big as saucers.

ASHLEE-ornamentShe screamed and started jumping up and down clapping her hands. Then she looked at us and said, “Jesus said yes, Daddy.”

David said, “What?”

“Jesus said yes,” she repeated. “I asked Jesus for an ornament just like Sandi and Noel’s and He said, yes!”

I’ll never forget that Christmas. I’ll never forget the look on Ashlee’s face. It was the best Christmas ever!

So what’s your story? I’d love to hear it.


Regina Stone Matthews was born in Columbia, South Carolina. She attended Therrell High School in Atlanta, Georgia and West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia. Currently, Regina resides in Richardson, Texas with her husband, David. She has three daughters and four grandchildren. She is the author of the children's chapter books "Elizabeth Marie Hutchinson-When I Dream;" "Dealing with Margaret: Elizabeth Marie Hutchinson-When I Dream" and the double award-winning book "I'm a Detective! Elizabeth Marie Hutchinson-When I Dream."