The Last Christmas with my Dad: A Christmas Devotional

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by veteran Diva Heather Ream (want to read her last post? Read it here). Welcome to the 4th post of our 2018 Diva Christmas Series, “The Best Christmas Ever.” There was such a good mixture of stories submitted this year, and I tried to balance lighter and heavier posts throughout this series — this one is definitely heavier. Please be encouraged today by Heather’s Best Christmas Ever.

A little background info on our Diva Christmas Series: Every year I’ve been editor, I like to celebrate the Christmas season with a special series and theme. This is year 5!! This year’s theme is “The Best Christmas Ever” and I think you’ll enjoy the wide variety of posts everyone submitted! It was a pleasure reading them as they were submitted, and taking in everyone’s Best Christmases Ever. Submissions are closed, but if you’d like to read more about the series, here is my post announcing the series!

Want to catch up on the series? Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

My 6th grade year of middle school had been a remarkable one. I was 11 and felt as though I was experiencing the world for the first time. Thanks to some special teachers who were gracious with their time and attention, I learned that there were problems to be solved outside my tiny, blue-collar corner of Tennessee, and that one day, I might grow up and help to fix things.

As I gained confidence in my capabilities, my introverted nature diminished. I had an opinion now, a voice – and I used it as often and as loudly as any pre-teen is wont to do. I was especially ready for our extended family’s Christmas celebration.

Two gatherings were held: a party on Christmas Eve, followed by an early supper on Christmas Day. My grandmother’s house would be filled to capacity by dozens of family members and a table groaning with delicious Southern cuisine. Late on Christmas Eve, we would open presents, and soon Mammaw’s blue carpet would be covered with a rainbow of ripped wrapping paper. Sometimes an aunt or uncle, forgetting to buy ahead but feeling generous, would press a folded bill into my hand, filling me with delight.

My uncles and cousins would set up instruments and speakers and play old Ventures and Elvis tunes. Simultaneously, conversations would overflow from every room in the house, increasingly loud laughter punctuating most sentences. Every member of my clever, extroverted family was their most sunny and attractive at Christmas time, and I drawn to the sheer brightness of them.

I couldn’t wait to go to Mammaw’s house and show off the new, “sophisticated,” 6th-grade Heather. I was shocked when Daddy said, “Why don’t we stay here and celebrate, just the 4 of us?”

Immediately, I began to cry. We had never not gone to Mammaw’s house for Christmas. The mere thought of it upset me greatly, especially since I was so eager to show off. My mama and daddy tried to reason with me, but I could not be consoled.

After almost an hour of my tears, Daddy bent down in front of the couch and took my hands in his. His gentle brown eyes were sad and resigned. He looked as though he understood that he would experience many, many more adolescent outbursts in the years to come, and that each one would try his patience.

“We’ll go to Mammaw’s house, Heather Pooh,” he said.

I had a wonderful time at Mammaw’s house that year. It seems like we had more family at that celebration than any other I can recall. I remember vividly that Daddy ate a sandwich made with pumpernickel bread. He was the only one of us who liked it.

We were stunned when he passed away 6 days later.

He died suddenly at home in the early morning hours of December 30, 1989, a mere 144 hours after sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of his daughter’s.

Our Lord is so good and so faithful – although I suffered a terrible amount of guilt over that fact for years, He began to heal me as I matured in my own Christian walk. I came to understand that what my daddy did was leave me with a singularly important memory – an incredible, indelible example of sacrificial love.

Despite the loss, despite the pain, this remains my favorite Christmas.

Daddy modeled what I, as a believer, am called to do. His choice that night caused an influential and long-lasting chain reaction in my life. I believe what our Bible teaches about Heaven – that because I believe that Jesus hung on the cross in my place, I will one day see my daddy again, and I will one day meet our Lord. My daddy believed the same. He no longer has to believe because now he knows!

Perhaps Daddy will meet me one day as the gates to my eternal home swing open, and I can thank him for the best Christmas present he ever gave me. Perhaps I will slip my hand into his, as I did in 1989, and together, we will go thank our Lord for the best Christmas present He gave us, as well.

Heather Ream is an emerging writer from Knoxville, Tennessee. The Lord blessed her with an incredible husband, Ben, and a joyful desire to serve others in her community. You can follow her East Tennessee adventures at