Paul Castain's Blog

My Father’s Last Christmas Gift

Posted December 24, 2019

Tucked away in a safe place within the walls of my heart, is a vision of my Father, Christmas Eve, 32 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 sh*t sandwich?

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 idiot 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. There 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, he was able to share something very profound . . . THE moment when he was nearing the end of his journey and;

Was STILL Counting His 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.


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

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

Giving of our prayers . . . who doesn’t need a little good press with their maker?

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 own 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 might 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” . . . I have never forgotten it!

I’ve posted this story each year since 2009 and I get a bit choked up each time.

Sometimes its because I’m reliving a memory that’s bittersweet;

And sometimes its because I realize I needed a little “reality check”.

This year its because I believe someone out there needed to read this!

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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