12/24/68 and love
“But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
If you were alive on December 24, Christmas Eve, 1968, to see this picture from Apollo 8, do you remember what else you were doing? I remember much but also remember so little. My husband and I were interns at John Gaston City of Memphis Hospital working that night so we missed the traditional Christmas Eve services. Instead we went to the quieter Christmas Day services at St. Mary’s Cathedral that next morning. We were not married until the next year, but it was a special Christmas, the first holiday we were able to be together. I do not remember the patients I took care of that night or what presents we gave each other for Christmas. I do remember that our best friend, Charles Stallings, taught us how to make gold and red Christmas ornament balls that we hung on that first tree. We still have some of the large balls, and we try to tell our grandchildren, Zoe and Turner, about them as they traditionally help us hang them or occasionally have fun literally tossing the decorative balls on the upper limbs of our tree each year.
The most memorable part, however, of that first Christmas was that I was invited to meet Robert’s parents for Christmas dinner that night at their home. I don’t remember what we ate but, I do remember the red dress I wore. I was so nervous. I was damaged goods, and I feared that they would not be able to like or much less love me. I had been divorced, and Robert was in the process of being divorced. I remember how they accepted me with open arms and treated me as if I were a lovable person from the start. Their unconditional love and care never ended. I still feel their presence today even though they have been dead for some time.
The only way I can continue to return that love is pay it forward today to my children and their children and their spouse’s families. I remember when Elizabeth died that I would pray that if she would continue to watch over her grandchildren that I would care for her husband, Bob. I didn’t keep up my part of the bargain as well as she did. I could always have done more.
I know that love never dies. Bob and Elizabeth have taught me that. I still feel the unconditional love they showed to me in so many ways even today almost fifty years later. It is a presence. It is a feeling. It is knowledge. It is present in their only son who also knows much more about unconditional love than I do. I also see it in their three grandchildren whom they loved so dearly. I know love can change the world, one person, one family at a time. I have seen it.