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A Christmas Goodbye

By Edward A. Rinderle
Posted: 12/02/2021

By Ed Rinderle


It's Christmas Eve, and the hospital emergency room is abuzz with activity. Hospital staffers hurry to and fro to help those in immediate need: a woman with a knife wound suffered while preparing Christmas dinner; an older gentleman shocked by faulty wiring while putting up Christmas lights; a young man writhing on a gurney, the victim of a gunshot wound; a middle aged women black and blue from being beaten with a shoe by her drunken husband.


Donny sits there, amid all the misery, feeling a different kind of pain. He has just brought in Laura, his beloved wife, who moments ago, in the midst of pre-Christmas preparations, suddenly dropped to the floor unconscious.


Donny anxiously waits for news from the doctors who are working to save his beloved. To counteract

his fears, he focuses on the Christmas tree in the nearby foyer and lets his mind drift to memories of

Christmases past . . .


Christmases of his youth. Returning from church with his sister, mom, and dad. Shedding their

“Sunday clothes” for more comfortable attire. The Christmas tree shining brightly in the picture window

and the carols on the stereo provide a perfect backdrop. The family opens their Christmas packages one

by one, taking turns. Later they play charades, then dine around the kitchen table. The food is great. The

wine flows. Laughter abounds. At the day’s end they retire, and Donny's heart is filled with joy and



He and Laura have had their share of special Christmases, too. They have borrowed some of the

memories from their childhoods and made them part of their own Christmases, usually with family or

friends. When alone, they would snuggle by the fire in their living room, enjoying the neighborhood

Christmas lights from their bay window. Donny cherishes all of these memories, too.


Donny longs for those Christmases past. He savors the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of those times.

Best of all, he can feel the love.


He wonders, “What will this Christmas hold? Or future Christmases?”


The answer comes as a shock, but not an entirely unexpected one: “I am sorry, Mr. Franklin, but your

wife has suffered a burst aneurysm in her brain.” The doctor shows Donny an x-ray image revealing a

dark shadow engulfing nearly half of Laura's skull. “We can keep her alive artificially, but any kind of

recovery is unlikely.” Donny has a difficult decision to make, but he knows that even if she revives, she

will be only a pale shadow of who she was.


Having made the decision, Donny enters Laura's room. She is sleeping peacefully, an array of machinery

keeping her body alive. He strokes her arm; he holds her hand. She feels so warm and alive. He whisper

words of love and appreciation to her for all the memories she has given him, Christmases and otherwise.

With a gentle kiss on her warm lips, he bids her a heart-felt goodnight. As he does, he seems to feel her

lips, ever so slightly, tighten against his. And the words of an old song flood into his head:


“So kiss me, my sweet,

And so let us part.

And when I grow too old to dream,

That kiss will live in my heart.”


Oscar Hammerstein, II



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