The holidays are over, New Year is fast approaching.

But I still haven't celebrated Christmas.

I have not taken communion,

I have not witnessed the Christmas miracle.

MY Christmas will be coming in January,

Long after the decorations will all come down,

Long after gifts have been returned,

Long after holiday traffic has disappeared.

Yet, tonight, as I plug away on these keys,

I am remembering...

I was, maybe, ten years old or so,

This one night, wind blew harsh with a large flaky snow.

It seemed like a painter with a white paintbrush seemed to be stroking white paint on a black canvass,

Oh how it blew from Right to Left.

It reminded me of the snow on a TV set.

As the pickup cut through the wind,

My Grandfather struggled to see,

It wasn't a night to get the pickup stuck in a ditch.

He held out the thermos, and asked me to pour him some coffee.

And afterwards I crammed my hands back into my gloves.

"Grandpa, why do cows have to have their calves

On such horribly cold nights like tonight."

"The cold stress's the mothers, their insides quiver,

It get's them all balled up and they go into labor."

I hated farming, and what would normally take us ten minutes

To drive on a sunny summer afternoon,

Now took us a half hour in this fury of a white abyss.

My Grandfather slowed the truck down

As we came to a bend in the road.

There, well protected by an some stones stood an evergreen,

In the middle of nowhere,

Lit up with Christmas lights.

It sat haphazzardly a few hundred yards from the rock quarry.

Slabs of limestone, some weighing in at 800 to 1,000 pounds,

Were slammed into the ground, with just the ends sticking out.

A tornado had came many years back,

Lifted some free stone slabs in the quarry,

And plunged then into the landscape.

Long ago, on a night much like this one,

A young man drove sped off the road on a motorcycle no less,

Careened into a slab and died.

This evergreen, all lit up

Wasn't there to commemorate the passing of the man,

Or pay hommage to Christ,

Or even be decorative...

It was there to keep others from dying.

My Grandfather got out of the pick up,

And motioned for me to follow.

I walked with him to the tree.

He gently reached out and shook it gently,

All the snow fell revealing more of the colorful lights.

In the glow, a stone with lettering became illuminated.

"Henry Yarnell".

I never knew Henry was my Grandfather's cousin.

They may as well have been twins, inseperable.

Henry's parents died when he was young,

And he was sent here to live with family.

I looked up at this man,

As I held his hand firmly,

A man whom I had every confidence in and never feared.

He never spanked or yelled at me, not once.

He now stood crying with the snow slamming into his face.

This scared me, I had not known him to ever cry.

He wasn't a monument of male machismo,

But as a soldier he never let things show much.

I never even knew his cousin Henry had existed....

But as it turned out,

Henry managed to get an old  German made motorcycle

Shipped out of Germany during WWII.

Years and years ago,

On a fateful night, much like this one,

During one of the most memorable blizzards known in history,

My Grandfather and Henry were gearing up to go to the farm.

Henry, full of piss and vinegar, and no patience,

Decided to ride his bike.

Somehow, be it wind or snow, or speed or a rock in the road,

Henry lost control, and hit the limestone slab head on.

The doctors said he froze to death...

As the story went...

My grandfather decided he'd Henry with a truck,

But Henry, always impatient, left early on his bike.

By the time Grandpa found the bike and Henry,

The cold snow covered everything...including bike tracks...

Even the motorcycle lamp laid under three inches of snow.

My Grandfather took my hand,

And we started back to the truck.

"Grandpa, I don't understand.  Where is the electricity?

There isn't an electrical pole for miles.

How does this tree stay lit?"

"Where there is love in this world,

You will always find light.

I loved Henry, and he is still loving me."

Later, I had asked my Grandmother,

I gathered from her somber expression,

Henry was a bad subject.

Yet, she believed my story, but didn't know what to say,

She had never seen the evergreen.

Grandpa eventually leveled with me,

And said that he alternated two car batteries out there,

While one charged, the other lit the tree.

I think about that night with Grandpa often.

That georgeoue tree was lit up so people would crash...

Like Henry the time could see the slabs,

It would be too late.

I thought about how all alone the tree was,

Just alone in a vast landscape of nothing except a few rocks.

It didn't make sense when one looked at it.

I just could not figure out how it was lit up,

And it felt like a miracle all to itself.

This became one of my first Jesus experiences.

I felt like that little tree, all alone,

Represented the manger scene...

The only light one could see, was the tree.

Just like Christ was the light of the world,

As he laid in a manger, remote from the rest of the world.

It felt odd as we later drove home,

The tree sat there, all cold with it's lights.

And when we finally made it back to the drive way,

I sat there knowing the tree was still lit,

Even though my eyes didn't see it.

Henry's light lit the road so people wouldn't die,

And Christ came so that none of us would ever die.

I really haven't heard people talk about the tree much,

It's all pretty remote.

But those that have seen it,

Say they have had to get out just to see how it was lit...

They had to answer the same quandary I had.

Grandpa loves to tell people how he lights it,

Sometimes, if I'm in earshot,

When he's finished, I reply,

"Grandpa, that isn't true, it's lit on love."

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Spend time with elderly people, they have many stories...some good ones, and some bad ones...but all are true and meaningful.  They are vast resources of information.

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