Our last Christmas tree with Hans was cut in mid-December 2015. Usually, the spruces stay fresh and last well into January, sometimes sprouting new growth and even shedding pollen in the house. Manfred ordinarily cuts the tree and the children haul it home on a sled. But this time last year, Manfred’s knee was giving him trouble, so Hans cut the tree for the first, last, and only time.
For some reason, this tree did not live very long. At first, it appeared to be a very healthy and vigorous tree but long before January 11, which was the day Hans drove to the highway for the last time, the tree was dropping brown needles. We took the Christmas tree down the day after the crash, January 12, 2016 – Hans’ birthday. His twenty first birthday, which he celebrated in Heaven.
Hans’ Christmas tree is still out behind our house, on top of a brush pile next to the trail along the creek. His birthday presents are still wrapped and on his shelf in the boys’ room. Except for the Filson shirt. We buried him in the Filson shirt. We thought, since he was turning twenty-one we would splurge a little. We leisurely took our time at the gun store picking out his presents and trying to decide if we really should spend that much for a shirt. We did not know he had only hours to live or that we would see his face only one more time and just for a few minutes.
So, almost eleven months later, still unwrapped, are his birthday presents: an electric boot dryer, an electrical gadget that I do not know even what it is, and that other automotive thing Manfred bought for him. And the Green & Black’s chocolate bar that Noah got him, still waiting in the brown paper bag for someone to eat it.
His Christmas presents are on the shelf, too – the micrometer, the chainsaw tool kit you wear on your belt, the chamois car polishing sponge – which he unwrapped on Christmas morning when we had no idea he had only seventeen more days to live. But the Glen Miller CD I gave him he got to enjoy every single one of those seventeen days.
Hans does not care at all now about missing his birthday or about unopened presents. No, eleven months later (our time), Hans is joy-struck, blown away by the magnificence of God’s glory and by the wonders of His Heaven. He definitely has no need of an electric boot dryer, a micrometer, a chamois car polishing sponge…
…or even chocolate.