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Presence Above Presents

I fondly remember Christmases of my childhood when my parents, brother, and sisters would gather at Grandma and Grandaddy's house with my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve, wake up at home on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought, and then spend Christmas afternoon at my other grandparents' house with my mom's side of the family.

After both sets of grandparents passed away, and my siblings and I became young adults with children of our own, we began celebrating Christmas Eve at my parents' home, and then my mom and dad would go from house to house on Christmas Day to see what Santa had brought each of their grandchildren.

On all these occasions, each home would be bursting at the seams with dozens of people talking, laughing, playing games, listening to Christmas music, and eating delicious holiday favorites that had been lovingly prepared. Of course, there would also be the exchanging of gifts. A flurry of colorful wrapping paper and bows would be tossed in the air around children sitting on the floor, as they tore open their boxes with excitement and cast away the trappings to be bagged up later by whichever kid drew the shortest straw. This would be followed by the more subdued and careful unwrapping of presents exchanged by the adults.

Now that my parents are gone, so are the large noisy gatherings on Christmas Eve. My adult children visit for a nice quiet dinner, and we often reminisce about those fun and boisterous times. When schedules permit, my siblings and I try to connect at some point during December. Though it may have felt hectic at the time, what I wouldn't give for just one more Christmas season with the grand get-togethers of my younger years. While the gifts were fun, I miss the voices, laughter, and hugs of my dearly departed loved ones the most.

So, as you're rushing from store to store and scouring websites looking for the perfect gifts this holiday season, I hope you'll remember that, in the long run, being truly present in these moments — soaking up all the memories you're making with your family and friends — that's what will be remembered long after the presents you give or receive have lost their luster. Your presence is the most valuable gift of all. 

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