Rex with the Young children

Rex with Elise, Ty and Jennifer

Christmas 1998 was the last year we had with my brother, Rex. He had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor months before and had already outlived the doctor’s original predictions. What gifts do you buy for someone who is dying? How do you keep it in perspective? We had two choices: We could blow the bank and make it the Christmas of a lifetime, buying Rex and our kids everything they ever wished for. It would have to go on credit cards since we were living paycheck to paycheck and even a moderate Christmas would push us into using our banks overdraft line of credit. Our other choice was live within our meager means and buy what we could afford.

We didn’t know how much longer Rex had, but we knew Christmas was the holiday he cared about the most. His ultimate life goal was to be a real life Santa Claus, bringing gifts to all the children of the world. Rob and I chose not to provide a blowout Christmas that year. Our fear of mounting debt just for daily life kept us from going into more debt for gifts.

Looking back, I don’t regret our choice to keep Christmas manageable. The thing is, life went on after Christmas morning. Rex died a month later, at the end of January. During those last few weeks we made time for Rex to visit with his friends and to share his unique way of showing love. I was glad we weren’t worried about having to pay off credit card debt for Christmas when we were figuring out the details of his funeral and memorial services.

Christmas is about love. If you are able to show your love by giving piles of gifts, that is a wonderful thing. If you can’t buy gifts, don’t feel bad. Just find another way to show your love. Write a heartfelt letter, bake a pie, make homemade mashed potatoes, offer a back rub or a listening ear. Do what you can to tell others what they mean to you and let the rest go. Hopefully, life will go on after Christmas morning and the gifts won’t matter. And if life doesn’t go on, you will be so glad you shared the only thing that does matter, your love.