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I Am a Weepy Old Man

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Posted 12-23-2009 at 09:17 AM by Jeff Westover

Like every Christmas season this year has been hectic. As we sit on the cusp of Christmas Eve I am almost missing it already. It comes and it goes so quickly.

It is enough to make me cry.

That is a sentiment I am experiencing far too much these days. I am becoming a weepy old man.

Towards the end of his life my grandfather was known to weep at seemingly small things. He grew very tender.

I am nowhere near the age he passed but I know the feeling well now. This Christmas season has brought tears to me like few have before.

This Christmas is the first without my eldest daughter at home. Aubree is 23 and serving a Church mission in Florida. Yes, it is not the end of the earth and this Christmas gone doesn't mean she won't be back next year.

But you have to understand. Aubree was the very reason we even have this website. For going on 20 years I haven't celebrated Christmas without her -- or the folks here. I've been dreading not having her home for this season and there have been big moments we've had without her. And I've missed her.

With the economy being what it is the email coming into the site has run the gamut. Every year we get dozens of emails from folks in need. That's normal.

Those emails led to the creation of Santa's Sleigh, a simple effort we make each season now to give back. This year Santa's Sleigh has been dedicated to raising money for a special needs child who needs a vehicle to move him around -- a huge need we could in no way fulfill ourselves.

But this year hundreds contributed.

Little children from different parts of the world sent in their meager earnings to help. One such contribution, from a little boy aged 4 years old, totaled all of $3. He told his Mommy he wanted to give it to the "boy who can't walk".

I have a lot of stories like that associated with Santa's Sleigh this year that have moved me to the very core.

From widows and single Moms who could ill afford to give, to families like my own who worked for days selling candy to help out the effort and the sacrifice put in was Christmas in its purest form.

We raised better than $4000 -- far more than I thought we were capable of -- and when it came time to present the money to the family of this one child I was humbled by their gratitude.

In the frenzy of the season we have struggled to find time for all we have wanted to do. But we have been blessed with opportunities to experience music this season in a glorious way.

Early in the season my wife and I attended, with my parents, the symphony. It wasn't even Christmas themed, it was Mahler's 2nd. But the setting was festively decorated and something about it just filled my soul with light.

We later attended the Christmas Concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a tough ticket for us to get. Those who don't live in Utah and who see this event on PBS each year have no idea what a big deal it is. We have been attending these events for over a decade, making it as much a part of our Christmas traditions as anything. This year the artists performing with the orchestra and choir were Natalie Cole and David McCullough.

David McCullough is a rock star in my home. Well, ok, he is with me. He has long been a favored writer and quoted historian. When it was announced he was coming my kids said "Oh yeah, Dad's getting tickets to that no doubt."

There is kind of a lottery held for the free tickets and once again we didn't win. I searched high and low and due to the kindness of several strangers I was able to secure tickets for all of us to attended over two different days.

After the first performance we actually got a chance to meet both McCullough and Cole. What a thrill. As he shook my young daughter's hand Mr. McCullough smiled at me and wished me a Merry Christmas. I thanked him for coming to Salt Lake and sharing a bit of Christmas with us. "Who wouldn't want to spend Christmas here?" he asked me. What a gracious man.

But for as fun as all that was there was no moment associated with that event quite like when the choir sang "God Be With You" at the end of the final performance to David McCullough and Natalie Cole.

I enjoy Natalie Cole and for years thought she belonged at this event especially. But upon seeing her first performance she seemed oddly set aside from the choir and orchestra. She is a solo artist and her demeanor was a bit standoffish. She called them her "backup singers" and though she was trying to be funny I was a little put out by that comment. But then I saw her at the final performance and the change was profound.

She sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", a familar hymn and one I had heard her perform the first time just days before. But this time there was a sublime blend between her, the choir and the orchestra that was powerful. It was sweet and heart wrenching to hear. Something had changed between them. There was now a chemistry that wasn't there before. That final performance just floored me with the Christmas spirit and by the end when the choir sang "God Be With You" tears were streaming down her face.

I understood all too well how she was feeling.

As usual, the massive amounts of work represented by this season -- whether it be because of these websites, my job or just the chaos that comes from having a large family -- is overshadowed by little things -- traditional things.

Tomorrow is the biggest day of the year -- Christmas Eve. One of our many traditions is that my children will read from Luke Chapter 2 and put on their own little nativity play in telling the story.

Last year, as always, the effort was led by Aubree. Coordinating between uncooperative teenager and excited little ones always makes it a big job and Aubree, as the eldest, handled it each year with grace. This year, of course, she's not here to do it.

So my 15 year old son is taking charge this year, in honor of his big sister. I didn't ask him. I didn't have to ask him. He's just doing it.

It is more than enough to make me cry.

Several nights ago I returned home from another hectic week of business travel and sat down in my chair. The kids during such weeks will hold all the Christmas cards that come in while I am away and we open them together when I get home. This time we had nearly 70 of them to open. Most of them come from my friends right here on MMC, courtesy of the annual exchange we sponsor. It is a thrill to get cards especially from far away places like Romania and Iceland and the Netherlands. My post lady is most curious about us because nobody gets Christmas cards like we do. But there was just something special about this batch this last week.

In there was a card from Gracie, a long time friend I've never met. For years Gracie was an active part of the Christmas community online, a dear sweet soul. She had some family issues a few years back, went back to school and became a nurse. Those efforts have meant she hasn't been able to be online much for a while. But her sweet card was a reminder of how much I've missed her and have grown to enjoy her friendship here.

Jay's card this year was a thrill too, as it always is. I met Jay last year on a trip and he's a brother, pure through to the bone. Of his own free will he runs what I just don't have time to do: Merry Christmas Radio. I pay him no money and he does it all on his own year round. We get a lot of mail about MCR. So I get his card and this year it says "Merry Christmas from Merry Christmas Radio, the favorite Radio Station of My Merry". It's like he was trying to win the war on Christmas all in one card. It made me laugh -- as Jay usually does -- and it moved me again to tears to think of his sacrifice of time all for the love of music and of Christmas, which is a love we share.

These card adorn the walls of our home each season, becoming a part of all that we do to make the walls bleed Christmas. It never fails to impress and tomorrow, as folks will come to the house as they always seem to do, I am going to be asked over and over again: who are all these people? Who do you know in Germany, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the UK? Who are all these people from all over the US.

They are my friends. Every last one of them. It makes me feel like George Bailey every year!

And it will probably make me cry when I talk about it. I know I will. I have become a weepy old man.
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  1. Old Comment
    JayIsh's Avatar
    And now I too am a weepy old man!

    Meeting Jeff and his lovely wife was one of the thrills of this year! They are real folks with real smiles and real love. And as Jeff described the card opening that he enjoys with his family, I could see myself there and laughing and celebrating...That's the kind of people they are...You immediately feel like family!!!

    As I opened my cards, I too felt the love from across the miles from those who cherish the friendships they've made over the years, and those who celebrate the season of Christmas everyday!

    God bless you Westovers! Because we are blessed to know you!
    Posted 12-23-2009 at 02:28 PM by JayIsh JayIsh is offline
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