The Last Christmas Gift

by Paul Castain on December 21, 2012

Tucked away in a safe place within the walls of my heart, is a vision of my Father, Christmas Eve some 25 years ago. I can vividly see the look upon his face because it was a look that transcended all expression. It was beyond gratitude or joy and it was as if he were recording our faces, our voices and acts to be filed deep within his soul. It was as if he had something to say, but couldn’t express it. I didn’t know what it was but I felt it to be profound and deep!

It was that Christmas that I learned something that I have since referred to as “The Gift”!

12 days later a family meeting was called by my Father and he obviously had something on his mind. With a heavy heart he shared with us that before he was released from the hospital ( a few days before Christmas) he was told that the cancer had spread and he was given 3 months to live. He explained to us that he didn’t want to ruin our holiday and wanted to give us the 12 days of Christmas.

That day a light bulb went off for me as I realized that on Christmas Eve, my Father was drinking it all in for the last time. Less than 3 months later, my Father passed away.

So let me ask the question for you . . . where’s “The Gift” in that? There are in fact many if you would do me the honor of reading on.

The first is a constant reminder that if my Dad could keep himself from wearing devastating news on his sleeve, perhaps I can keep whatever BS I’m going through off of mine! And let’s not to pretend that we don’t all have a little of that BS via the boss, the A-Hole who just stole the parking spot, the kids, the wife, the bills and for the “Bah Humbug” crowd . . . the season!

Whenever I’m guilty of wearing those things on my sleeve, perhaps I’m also guilty of getting in the way of someone else’s joy. Something for us all to think about next time we care to offer someone an invite to our pity party. Might be a “gift” in understanding that one!

The other “gift” is savoring the moment, involving all of your senses and living the holiday (and dare I say, our lives) as if this will be the last one. Someday we’ll be right!

I believe there is also a “gift” in catching yourself enjoying that moment. Don’t they call it the “present” for a reason? Personally, I think it sucks when we are enjoying a moment solely in retrospect! I triple dog dare you to catch yourself in the act of enjoying your life!

Gratitude is yet another gift that I have taken away from that event. Gratitude that I saw the moment when my Dad was savoring his last Christmas. In that moment, I was able to share something very profound . . . a moment when someone who had come to the end of their journey was counting their blessings!

Additional “gifts” come from that knowledge too. All of us have an expiration date. If you knew you were on your final 3 months, would you be filled with regret or gratitude? Perhaps there’s even another “gift” in starting, right now in positioning ourselves for a “regret free” life!

There’s still more, I promise!

If we can’t embrace gratitude, how about refusing to allow resentment to enter our lives? You know, not even once during my Dad’s final days did I get a vibe of bitterness that his life would be cut short at 65. Instead of anger that Christmas, Dad was thankful.

“The Gift” is also an opportunity for us to become selfishly selfless. It means finding a need, thinking beyond ourselves and giving unconditionally. How?

Giving of encouragement. Never, ever underestimate the power of giving someone the ability to take another round!

Giving of our time, our patience and our genuine interest!

Giving of our prayers . . . who doesn’t need a little spiritual good press?

The “gift” of forgiveness as well as the “gift” to remove our egos long enough to ask someone else to forgive us!

And in true “Charity begins at home” fashion . . . how about the gift of forgiving yourself for your shortcomings?

The final “gift” is the ability to take our own sad stories, challenges and speed bumps and somehow take a lesson from them. In that moment, you may have something that becomes “a gift that keeps giving”!

With that, I want to thank you all for my “gift” . . . the opportunity to share something personal and profound. I share it with the hope that it will breed numerous gifts for you!

Please take a moment to savor and celebrate the many gifts that surround you! They are there my friend . . . sometimes we just have to look harder!

Oh, and before I forget . . . Dad, thank you for “the gift”!

Wishing you and your family blessings of peace, joy and more “gifts” than could ever fit underneath your tree!

Happy Holidays from a humbled and grateful

Paul Castain


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  • KevGalway

    A nice heartwarming post Paul, Happy Christmas from over the seas in the UK. It’s certainly given me something to think about, and be thankful for – my family, and thoughts must go out to the recent school tradegy and their families. All the best.

  • paulcastain

    Yes mine too . . . Lots of thoughts and prayers to their families!

    Wishing you a Happy Christmas as well . . . Cheers!

  • Teresa Foreman

    Paul, Thank you for The Gift. My Father was in a similar situation, diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, told us in Nov. and down played it so we didn’t really grasp the seriousness. I do remember his last Christmas with us and believe he quietly savored the family gathering. He died in June of that year, 2003, it is 9yrs ago and often still feels like it just happened. I miss him terribly and often. He shared many gifts with us kids and others, as I catch myself saying “Dad-isms” to my own kids. Paul, thank you for the gift of your sharing. Teresa

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Teresa . . . Those “Dadisms” keep our Dads alive in our hearts!
    Happy Holidays Teresa!

  • Traci Walters

    Thanks for sharing, Paul. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • paulcastain

    Always a pleasure Traci . . . Thank YOU.

    Merry Christmas!

  • KTott

    Paul – thank you for a wonderful, timely message. Your message today has truly brought a moment of reflection into my day / week / season. While my family and I strive to be “bucket fillers” every day, there are times where I know I’ve had the BS posted in lights on a marquee over my head! Thank you for such an awesome reminder and message. I am so thankful that I found your site!

  • paulcastain

    I really appreciate that!

    I post this every year and this year I was thinking people might be sick of reading it. I had decided NOT to post this and then changed my mind at 9:00 am this morning.
    I’m glad this reached you and I wish you all the blessings this awesome time of year brings!

  • Jim Sweeney

    Paul, Thank you for sharing. Friend of mine coined a phrase and wrote a book title Daddin’ -the verb of being a dad. As a dad and a poppop I appreciate it more each day.

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Jim!

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Cathy!

    It’s hard for us times but then again we might just have to try harder.
    Merry Christmas to you too!

  • disqus_axTev4yxqL


    Don’t feel bad about re-posting this every year, I watch Rudolph every year and never get tired of it!

    Also, I remember reading this last year and how it affected me. After reading it this year, I was just as affected only it was by a different section of the post.

    Truly one of your best. I love how you have the courage to share things that are so deeply personal.

    Have a blessed and merry Christmas!!

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Don . . . Merry Christmas!

  • Franciszek Pozarzycki

    There is certain kind of wisdom in people,
    when they reflecting on others a good sense of balance, gratitude, distance to themselves and what’s around us.

    “Happiness real, when shared”; I eched in my mind.
    Family make for us a great deal in carving our empathy,
    so any loss reminds us remarkably, what really counts.

    Thank You Paul, for sharing your experience with us; wishing Merry Christmas to You and Your folks.
    P.S. Keep a good attitude (as always You used to sharing with us), all the time.

  • paulcastain

    I couldn’t agree with you more Franciszek!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment . . . You are appreciated!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  • Don Andersen

    Paul, such a pure message. Thanks for the “Gift”. I will certainly share with as many people as I can.

    Happy Holidays to you and your Family and all the best on a PROSPEROUS 2013.

  • Elisha Lowe

    Lovely. Thank you Paul.

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Elisha!

    Happy Holidays!

  • Dean Kuhloie

    Simple Truth(s) Thank you Paul. Merry Christmas.

  • Anthony

    Wonderful! Peace and joy to you and your family Paul


    Hey Paul,
    I remember reading this last year at Christmas,and from time to time thinking about it through the year. The story and the theme are very powerful; Still! It`s a great time of year to reflect and rejuvenate the mind and soul. Thank you!

  • Randy Flowers

    This puts it all in perspective. Thank you for sharing.

  • paulcastain

    Thank YOU Randy!

    Happy holidays to you and yours!

  • bob van winter

    Thank you Paul! I needed that this morning. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • paulcastain

    And that’s what the season is all about Bob!

    Merry Christmas!

  • LisaKline

    Thank you to both Mr. Castains. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • paulcastain

    Thank YOU Lisa!

    Merry Christmas!

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