That picture up there, the one that's a little ragged, a little worn and tattered...that's my mom and dad.

I've been carrying that around in my wallet now for, I don't know, something over twenty years I suppose. It's tucked in there with pictures of my wife, my kids and my grandkids.

My grandkids are the most prominent of those pictures. Heck, I can whip them out anytime and show them to you. Most grandparents can.

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But that old picture of my mom and dad is there, too, in the back.

A friend of mine, a kid I grew up with, lost his mom earlier this month. She was elderly and had lived a good life, a long life. His dad had passed away some years ago and so this will be the first Christmas without them.

And it got me thinking.

All of us will have that first Christmas without a parent. I did, many years ago. And yes, there's an element of sadness, no doubt about that. For you, there may be an empty chair at the table, a special person missing when the presents are being opened or an empty spot in the church pew, an empty folding chair at the school Christmas program. There's a voice that lit up the room as bright as the Christmas tree, and that voice is silent now. It's gone.

Except it's not. It's not gone and it's not silent.

It's speaking and living in your heart, isn't it? Can't you hear that voice, your mom or your dad...and doesn't it make you smile? Oh, maybe moisten up your eyes a little bit, maybe a tear first. But then, a smile and a warm feeling?

Yeah, me too. And I try to pass that on. My grandkids didn't get to know those two special people pictured up there in that old photo, so when I can I try to let them know who they were. I don't waste time telling them how they died. No, I tell them how they lived. And most of the time when I do, I make them laugh about the special, fun times I had with my mom and dad.

So really, at Christmas time and just about anytime, they're not really gone. No, I can't see them.

But by continuing to tell their story to my kids and grandkids and friends, I can make sure other people do.

2021 Winter Wonderland at Falls Park

A holiday tradition continues with Winter Wonderland at Falls Park in Sioux FallsSouth Dakota.

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