HOLLENBECK: Trying to think positive while remembering Christmases Past

As I get ready to mark the first Christmas without my husband — which as anyone who has walked this path will tell you is no easy undertaking — I'm borrowing on the Norman Vincent Peale premise of "The Power of Positive Thinking."
In that vein, I'm turning my focus toward special memories of the 37 wonderful Christmases we had together.
There are some funny times, some hectic times, some frantic times, some times overshadowed with illness and loss. But through them all was the deep, abiding love we were blessed to share.
So many things are triggering bittersweet recollections of our lives as a couple. Ed loved holiday music, particularly the popular songs done by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and such.
And of course he loved the beautiful sacred music of the season. One of our favorite collections was one done by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which we played year after year after year.
There are a few stumbling blocks I'm encountering on my "think positive" journey. Every time I hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas," I wonder briefly if I can keep on breathing, but I do so in spite of the gigantic lump.
In my heart I know Ed is celebrating the joyous spirit of the season in the midst of angels and all our loved ones who went before him. He is seeing heaven in all its glory, which I know in my heart must be a magnificent place. He has to be rejoicing in his heavenly home.
But the fact remains that I miss his earthly presence. The only way I can compare it is to say it's like waiting for a deep breath when you're been momentarily short-winded; only the deep breath is elusive.
People frequently tell me they receive messages from beyond from family members who are gone from this life. They tell me they "get signs."
This hasn't happened with me, though I would welcome one.
Ed frequently said he had several questions he wanted to address to the Lord when he got to heaven. I wonder if he has the answers now.
When he would mention the things that bothered him, he often would add, "But maybe by then I won't want to know anymore."
As my family gathers for the first Christmas without him, we'll be remembering the many past holidays when he was the center of our world.
There are funny moments, tender moments, crazy moments ... but all are special.
•Can I ever forget the year that he went to Noel Butler's hardware store and bought goat bells to put on the four cocker spaniels? The dogs jingled from one end of the house to the other. When they would run out into the back yard, they could have been mistaken for a herd of reindeer.
The jingling dogs were Amos and Honey and their offspring, Runtsey and Star-Baby. Each left an unerasable place in my heart.
•Then there was the year that Elmo, the big orange and white cat, became a living ornament on our Christmas tree. He had climbed up the tree, found a branch to his liking and stayed there for several hours. We decided he had moved in for his long winter's nap.
Elmo was the cat we called a feline version of Will Rogers because he never met anyone he didn't like. He regularly greeted visitors at the front door. Ed always suspected Don Utley of bringing him to the house since he showed up during a porch construction project, but Don never 'fessed up.
•There was the year that the tree wouldn't stay upright. The topplings started when Amos, cocker spaniel No. 1, ran through the living room, bumped into the tree and knocked it off its stand. After the initial felling, it never was steady again. We would find it lying on its side with ornaments strewn all over the living room. It looked like an assassinated tree.
Ed made many attempts to right the tree and put all kinds of riggings on the tree stand, but nothing was successful. In 10 attempts, the contest ended 10 for Amos and zero for Ed.
•Then there was the overcast Christmas when Ed was hospitalized for a heart procedure, but got a 24-hour pass to join the Christmas celebration at home. It made us acutely aware of the fragile nature of our lives and grateful for the time we had together.
•There were the Christmas Day sing-alongs we had with me at the piano and the cousins gathered around as we sang those familiar songs that have filled holiday households for decades. Ed would join in these impromptu performances from across the room.
•Indelibly etched in my memory are Ed's beautiful Christmas blessings that would bind us together in expressions of gratitude for all we shared and for the one who came at in the manger at Bethlehem to save us all.
•The Christmas stories and messages that Ed shared in worship services still warm my heart. My particular favorite was the one about the snowbirds, which included excerpts of United Press International religion writer Louis Cassels' "Parable of the Snowbirds."
The beautiful message it conveyed — "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory ..." (John 1:14) — is the one I hold in my heart this year as I remember ...

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.