I sat watching the tiny tree, and its 10 white lights

the cluttered room coated with a warm glow

that reminded me of deep plush carpet against my head

the dial of the receiver the only illumination in the room

as I lay back and dream of younger times

I am more alone than I have ever been

You disappeared into the holiday time

gone on a trip that I cannot follow this year

Charlie Brown would be pleased with the meager tree

and the quiet mystique of simplicity

wondering when you would see it

and I remember you’re no longer there

How many times did you sit and suffer?

How often did you curl up, lost and lonely and discarded?

Lonely Christmas nights while your children

left on the road 7 or 8 hours away

they having a family time, without you

Then as we grew and decided to spend our time

with friends or in other ways outside your presence

You left feeling that you were never more than

an obligation that was to be met with a phone call

and you sat suffering in the season of separation

Now, I am a stubborn one, never one for much decoration

never for much circumstance to remind of this time of year

Yet you loved it all, even when many times you

sat having Christmas outside his house

And you never really got to have what you enjoy

Wassail smells are missing, and the nativity that I never unpacked

still sits in the closet where you told me to keep it for you

Even after your Christmas became Ugandan

the last Christmas you would ever see, I was gone, on the road

for a good cause yes, but it still echoes of the neglect

and you spent your time alone in my home, watching these 10 lights

Tonight I understand what you must have felt

knowing that one you loved was too far to hug

too busy for the opportunity to sit and share

and the only comfort to a beleaguered soul is

the warm glow to remind that I am alone

but not unloved, but feeling a bit neglected

I’m sorry we never showed the same to you



10:58 am

7 December 2010


Too often my mother would be separated from my brother, my father, and I during the holidays.  For whatever reasons, it would be a Christmas call to share wishes instead of being together.  We’d have our family Christmas, but almost never on Christmas day or celebrating on New Year’s would we be together.  As I got older, I started spending my Christmas holidays serving God’s purposes… missions conferences like Urbana or working with the homeless.  Or worse still, choosing not to go visit her during Christmas because of friends or because it was something that just always wasn’t as important at the time.  Well, to me… I was way too self-centered.  Sadly my mother often never felt she deserved better, and never spoke up that she would like to celebrate more with my brother and I.

Last year, my mother was in the USA.  She had been recovering from an illness and was trying to prepare to go back to Uganda.  But I spent what would be the last Christmas of my mother’s life on earth, on the road driving up to St. Louis for the Urbana 2009 conference.  She so gladly encouraged me to go.  I was serving God’s people.  But I regret so very much not having one more Christmas with her.  One more time to actually put up a tree.  To smell the overwhelming scents of wassail, and candles, and fresh baked goodies.  To sit and hug one another and listen to carols.

Christmas last year, I was driving through Georgia and into Tennessee.  My Christmas meal was at the Varsity in Atlanta, and I was sleeping in a hotel not far from where my mother’s family used to live.  Mom was at home, probably eating sandwiches instead of turkey and stuffing.  She was alone, in a strange home (my home), and the only thing of Christmas cheer in the house was a small 10 inch Christmas tree, with a handful of lights draped around it.

Going through things this week, I found that tree.  I remembered mom went to sleep with that tree on so many times last year.  I would go in to the living room, and unplug it after she went to sleep.  And now, I’ve plugged that tree in, and I sit for a little bit every night.  I understand my mother loved me, and she knew I loved her.  She was lonely, but not quite alone.  I know, because I feel it when I sit bathed in the glow.  I understand that her son is not the man he once was, and she is no longer the mother I once knew. 

I hope the trees in heaven are glowing and breathtaking.  I pray the meals celebrating the king of kings are rich and full of flavour… and I pray you know that I would go back and change all of those lost days of celebration with you.  But, I know you finally have all of those things you wanted to make this time of year special, Mom… Someday, I will get to share in that with you.   Just like you wanted all along.