(GENDUSA COLUMN) David’s Tree: The Heart of Christmas

Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

It was early December 2011 when it was decided that my husband and I must be physically separated during Christmas. David’s mother had planned for months to travel to our house from New Orleans for the holidays. My two grown stepdaughters were overjoyed that their MawMaw was joining the family for Christmas. 

I, on the other hand, was planning to leave for Florida to help my daughter through the holidays as she dealt with the effects of chemotherapy while working and taking care of her six-year-old child. 

While anticipation graced our home in Georgia, difficulty seeped through the doors in South Florida. 

Typically, our home is decorated to the max by Thanksgiving. However, because of the trips back and forth to assist my daughter, the house was bare of holiday ornamentation. 

“Honey, let’s not worry about a tree this year because I know you are exhausted! My mother, the girls, and I understand, and we will be just fine!” My husband assured me.

David flew out of town on business for a few days just before I was to fly south. After he left, I stood alone in our un-Christmasy, bleak house and shed a few tears as sorrow engulfed me. 

I begged God to help us through this terrible and uncertain time. 

Suddenly, I decided there was no way that I would leave my husband’s family to celebrate Christmas in such stark gloom and doom! 

I grabbed my keys and headed to Hobby Lobby, searching for a small Charlie Brown-looking Christmas tree. Something inexpensive, funny, and full of color. The tree would be complete with ornaments representing the things in life David loved.

There it was! On sale! A five-foot pencil tree that was a bit sparse of fake needles, but yet, it seemed oddly perfect.  I grabbed it along with some old-timey colored lights, a few ornaments and hooks. 

The next stop was Walmart, where I found red and white fishing bobbers, golf tees and plastic practice golf balls. 

The tree would represent all things David enjoys… golf and fishing, beach Santas, and any reminder of his hometown, “The Big Easy.”

I glued the golf balls to the tees and tied them with red and white checked ribbons. The floats attached to the branches perfectly, and the few purchased ornaments were related mainly to David’s favorite recreations. I found an old picture of David fishing on a beach and tied it to the tree. 

When he came home, the tree was lit, and the house seemed to shine with a glimpse of joy. The once ugly little tree seemed magical since it made my waving goodbye easier.

Finally, later in January, when I returned home, I took the tree down and stowed it in the attic.  

“Are you keeping the tree?” David asked as I wrapped up the ornaments. 

“Yes, I am. I may even put it back up next year as a second tree. It seems enchanted and joyous!” I declared. 

Every year since that fateful Christmas, the tree reemerges to bring more than magic to this house. Each year, we add another David ornament. We still hang the original ones on the tree, but there are also decorations depicting a camera, a glass slice of pizza, a poor boy sandwich from New Orleans along with beads, the Christmas Story movie floor lamp, an Italian flag, pictures of grandchildren, and many more outlandish mismatched meaningful reminders of life. 

The large tree in the living room is beautiful, but David’s Tree in the adjoining room is the heart of Christmas. The whimsical tree tells the story of love, healing, hope, and family. David’s mom died several years ago, but each time I turn the tree’s lights on, I think of the colorful life she led. 

A wooden tree-shaped plaque is embedded in the tree that reads, “David’s Tree, established 2011.”  Each Christmas, when I hang the plaque, I also put a pink ornament on the back of the tree with a picture of my daughter taken soon after recovering from cancer. 

David’s tree depicts the journey from heartache to victory, from despair to joy, and from doubt to faith, all because of an answered prayer.  

God indeed helped us all through a terrible time. There isn’t a day that I am not aware that Christ is the magic of Christmas. He planted in my mind the way to bring a bit of light to darkness and a smile to wipe away the tears. 

As the little pencil tree beams brightly in our home and folks stop by, they often look quizzically at the crazy ornaments. As I notice their questioning glare, I respond, “This is David’s tree full of everything he loves!” 

But, oh, it is so much more.