I shared this story originally in Dec. 2009.
When my oldest daughter was in the third grade, she became a “traitor” in our family. In Alabama there are only two football teams. One is Alabama and the other is Auburn. We were die-hard Alabama fans and my husband, Don, never missed a game. Then out of the blue, our oldest daughter decided that she wanted to to to Auburn University when she graduated from high school. I thought it would hurt my husband, but he never said a word. “It’s just a phase,” he joked, and then teased her, “No child of mine will ever go to that school.”
When Shannon graduated from high school she spent her first year living at home, working and attending the community college. By her Sophomore year, she was ready to transfer to Auburn. We packed up two cars and like thousands of other parents each Fall, tried to hide our anxiety and emotions, as we sent our oldest off to college. Shannon settled into her dorm, met her best friend on 'moving in' day, joined a local Christian fellowship group and last, but not least, bought a season pass to all the football games. That daughter of mine could talk football with the best and seasoned commentators and it simply amazed me. It amazed her father, too, that this former clarinet player in the high school band knew her football so well.
After her graduation she moved to Georgia, a few hours drive away. She and her father continued their mutual love of football. My husband and I had actually never attended a live Auburn football game, but one Fall my daughter arranged to get us tickets and she was going to meet us there. It happened to be the same week my husband had to undergo some serious medical tests. We hadn't yet told our daughters. I was worried and wanted to back out of the trip, but he didn't want to let her down, so we went. The test results came back the following week. It wasn't good. Cancer. Two weeks before Thanksgiving he started Chemotherapy.
Before Christmas that year my husband had ordered a special Auburn football ornament for Shannon. It was the first in a series. She loved it. She came home every chance she could, now that her Dad was undergoing cancer treatments. It was naturally hard to leave each time and return to her job, knowing how ill her father was.
In March, a small package arrived in the mail. I opened it and there was another Christmas ornament, the second in a series. Had my husband already ordered another one, this early in the year? I put it away in the closet. The Chemo was taking a toll on my husband, but his spirit held strong. When his doctor told us that there was nothing else they could do, I called my oldest daughter to come home. And I told her about the ornament that had come in the mail. I couldn't hold onto it until Christmas. I truly believed that this was God's way of letting her know that it was okay to let go. God knew that her father wasn’t going to be there for the next Christmas.
Since then the ornaments have arrived like clockwork each year, each one uniquely designed with her favorite college colors, blue and orange. She has ten now and it is a gift from her father every year, a way of letting her know that he is still with her.