Saturday, January 9, 2010

Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ

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Happy CHRISTmas !

We started off the Christmas festivities with my family's Christmas party the Saturday evening before Christmas. The kids dressed up in costume and while my dad recited the Christmas story from Luke ll in the New Testament, the kids acted it out. This is the cast... Aaron Jr and most of my nieces and nephews on my side of the family.

The Nativity... and Aaron Jr in his shepherd costume.

I was on the decorating committee with a few others and this was what it looked like when everyone arrived.

And this is all of the tables filled with family. My parents, my siblings and their families. We had dinner first. It was yummy.
We were missing three people this year... my brother Bruce who passed away, my husband Aaron who passed away, and my nephew Nathan who is on his mission for our church. We missed them all so much... they were thought about all evening.

Aaron Jr and Me.

After dinner, there was a program and then we all sang Christmas carols. A bunch of my nieces got up to help lead us in song.

After we sang Christmas carols, all of the grandchildren of my parents got to open their special gifts from Grandpa and Grandma. My mom had been working on making quilts for all 39 of their grandkids for the past two years. She had all of the quilt tops done by Christmas last year, but this year... she and my dad spent using their quilting machine to quilt them and then my mom would bind the edges. Each quilt represented something that the child was interested in.

Aaron Jr's quilt was a cowboy / horse quilt. He LOVES it.

Here is a photo of my parents with 38 of the 39 grandkids and their quilts. Nathan got his before he left on his mission, so he is not in the photo. Pretty special and amazing for each of them to receive a personalized quilt from Grandma and Grandpa. They are beautiful. Thank you!!!

The next week, Aaron started having a bad cough and so we spent some time at the doctor's office trying to get him feeling better before Christmas came. He thought it was fun to wear this mask at the doctor's office.

This is Christmas Eve at the Harkness home. This is Aaron Jr and all of the nieces and nephews also acting out the Nativity while I read from Luke ll.

Aaron was a shepherd again.

Then Santa (Uncle Dave) came to bring each of the grandkids a gift. Aaron got a book.

Here are some of the other kids getting their giifts. The funniest one was Robert Lennon in the bottom right corner. It is his own dad in the Santa suit and he screamed and screamed. It was so funny.

Grandma Harkness made each family a quilt for Christmas. It is so beautiful and so soft and warm. We LOVE it. Thank you!!!

Here are the candles being burned for our loved ones who have passed away. Aaron, Bruce, and Heather.

Christmas morning was interesting. When I told Aaron Jr it was Christmas and asked if he wanted to get up and open presents, he jumped right out of bed. But then once we went upstairs, all he wanted to do was sit and watch TV. But, like any good mother would, I told him no. I wanted to watch him open the gifts I had bought for him!!! :) He was still not feeling the greatest... but once he started opening gifts, he was ok.

Here is Bruce the shark from the movie Finding Nemo. Aaron bought this for Aaron Jr several years ago. I think he bought it was Aaron Jr was just ONE or so. So, I put it away because it was supposed to be for kids 5 and older. Well, since Aaron passed away, I have wrapped it up each Christmas for Aaron Jr to open a gift from his Daddy. The funny thing is... throughout the year, it has been floating around the house, so he sees it... but never questions why he is getting it for Christmas again. He never even asks to open it. So, next year when he opens it again... we will see what happens. :)
If Aaron looks like he is in pain in the bottom right photo, it is quite possible. :) He was still not feeling great. It was the best photo I could get with his shark.

Here is Aaron opening a few other gifts and opening the gifts from his stocking and the overflow in Daddy's stocking. My main gift to him this year was a work bench with tools. Thanks again Christa for picking it up for me.

Uncle Spencer and Aaron and a couple of cousins helped to assemble it.

Aaron Jr with Uncle Spencer and the work bench. Thanks Uncle Spencer for your help.

Later in the day, more family showed up at my parents house to visit. When my brother John and his family showed up... they called Aaron Jr and me into the living room and presented Aaron Jr with this little red stool / bench. Several years ago, John made some of these little stools for his kids for Christmas with their names in the top. He made them in Aaron's shop, using Aaron's tools, with Aaron's help. This little stool for Aaron Jr was made the same way as the other stools, with some of Aaron's scraps of wood from the shop (John had taken some of the scraps when he was helping move our stuff), and painted with some of the paint from Aaron's shop. You can tell Aaron is still not feeling well. But later that night and the next day... he was very proud of his bench and was very protective of it. He LOVES it. Thank you so much John. It means a lot.

Me with Aaron Jr on Christmas morning.

This is our trip to the cemetery for Christmas to visit Aaron's grave.

Spencer and Kristi had still never seen the headstone in person since they live out of state, so they came with us this year. I will try not to embarrass Spencer by mentioning the fact that he is very emotional in this photo. Love you Spencer... thanks for missing Aaron. We all do.

Me and Aaron Jr.

Spencer wanted some time by himself... and after he was done, he stomped down the snow from the headstone to the car so there was a path to Aaron's site. Sue had sent a candle with us to light there in case the other one had gone out. It was still going, so we decided to light the second candle at President and Sister Hinckley's graves. (top right photo)

This is part of the little Christmas tree that Steve and Sue left at Aaron's grave. At church the Sunday before Christmas, I was showing Aaron Jr some pictures of Jesus that were in my scriptures. He was holding one and asked if we could put it on Daddy's rock. I told him we would take it for Christmas. So, we went to the store and got this one to leave. We wrote a message on the back and Aaron drew something on it for Daddy. They didn't have the one that he wanted to leave, so we left a different one that he had been holding at church. Aaron asked which child in the photo was him, and the one in the top left of the photo was the one that we determined was Aaron Jr standing next to the Savior. He was a blond boy. I thought it was so sweet that he wanted to take a photo of Jesus and leave it on Daddy's rock.

This was our alone time at the grave. Our family feels so incomplete without him here. Because he passed away just before Christmas in 2007, this is our third Christmas without Aaron. He is sorely missed. As we stood there by the headstone, Spencer was explaining to his son that it is Uncle Aaron buried there and that Aaron Jr doesn't get to have his Daddy here with him. It was difficult for Spencer to explain that because he was so emotional about it. As I stood there thinking about the fact that we were visiting the grave of my husband and Aaron Jr's Dad on Christmas Day... it just felt wrong. It felt so surreal all over again. How could this be? How can the universe be right if my son's Daddy was gone and not able to be here with us for Christmas? It is so difficult to explain, but things just felt so wrong standing there on Christmas looking over the grave where the missing part of our family rests. We miss him so much.

I have to write about my gratitude for the Christmas season. I am grateful for this time to remember the birth of our Savior. It is very humbling to think about the humble circumstances of the birth of the babe in Bethlehem... the birth of the Kind of Kings... the birth of the Savior of the world... the birth of the Son of God. I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and the sacrifices He made for each of us... and the burdens He carries in order to make my burdens lighter. I am grateful.

Merry Christmas to you all...

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Momza said...

All I can share with you is my deepest, heartfelt gratitude for your example of strength and courage.
Leslie, you are beautiful.

Mindy said...

I LoVE those quilts and that bench! I'd love to see all the quilts your mom and dad made for the grandkids. I bet they're wonderful. I love your posts, Leslie... thank you for continuing to uplift and inspire. :)

Rhitzclan said...

Oh Ell... you know how to bring me to my knees every time I read your blog. I feel so many different things and mostly I am humbled by your unparalleled example. Love you my friend.

P.S. Those quilts are amazing! What a priceless gift your parents could give all of their grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

Belated Merry Christmas Leslie and Aaron Jr.
The picture of your parents and all of their grandchildren (except one) was beautiful. What a treasure. The photo, time spent together and the treasure of the quilts to the children. Heirlooms that will last for generations.
I am sorry that you have to endure the hardship of the holidays missing Aaron. I wish you inner peace in the coming months.
The stool was an exceptional idea. The way Aaron continues to be with you both in those special ways warms the heart!
God’s Blessings to You Both!

Emily said...

I cannot believe the beautiful quilts that your mother in law and mother made! They are BEAUTIFUL! THe stool that was made for Aaron Jr. looked amazing too. I am in awe with the talent that is in your family. By the way, your nephew Richard is in my ward. I figured it out today. What a small world. :)

Liz said...

Love you

Brandi said...

I was looking for a bit of inspiration to just live today! If you can go on, I certainly can. I don't know you, but I do love you and pray that I can be as strong and as brave as you.

Kristi said...

That stinks that Aaron was so sick over Christmas. It was fun to have you guys there to share Christmas with. We love you

AlanaBD said...

LOVE the quilts! I bet your mom had to work on those ALL year! Lol! Yet another great post, Leslie! You make my problems and hardships seem so silly and ridiculous. Then, I step back and think about you and Aaron Jr. and makes everything alright.
Love you!

Claire said...

You're such an inspiration to me, Leslie. Truly.

Your wee boy isn't so little anymore! He's taken a stretch!!

Brandi said...

I met with Angel watch just after the diagnosis and they told me it would help if we named the baby. Late one night I was searching for the perfect name, it needed to be a name of an angel and I came across the meaning on the internet that Aaron means Mountain of Strength. I knew Aaron would be my mountain of strength for the rest of my life.

christa said...

Hey, I just wanted to apologize for not having returned your call yet. Just wanted to say thanks for thinking of me though. I've been trying to keep myself busy so as not to think about how much I want to have this baby. Have you left yet for your trip? I think it will be happening soon, so stay tuned for some news HOPEFULLY very soon!