She stopped what she was doing and took a step back, looking at her handy work. The tree sparkled with multi-colored lights reflecting on the numerous ornaments that dotted around the tree. It would do.
She had only decided to put the tree up at the last moment, for her this Christmas was an empty shell of what it had been in the past. Her only daughter was three thousand miles across a stormy ocean with her family. Sure she would get the phone call, or if she remembered how to get the thing to work, a web cam session on the computer. The computer was something her husband had bought them so they would be able to keep in contact with their daughter.
Last Christmas he had spent hours teaching her how to use the computer to enable them to see and talk to their daughter and their grandchildren. It was almost like he was showing her because he knew… he knew that the next Christmas, he would not be there to create the link.
Just four months previous, she had suddenly found herself alone. One morning he had simply just not woken up. She never imagined life without her husband, but over the last months it was something she'd had to deal with.
Now being Christmas it was even harder.
She wiped away a tear from her eye, and took a final look at the tree.
There was only one thing missing, the final star.
Every Christmas, the star had always been the final item on the tree, placed there by the two of them, as if to underline that they were ready for Christmas. This year when she had unpacked the Christmas decorations, she'd found the star broken, like her heart.
She sat sipping her coffee, looking at the tree; it looked so empty without the star. Just like her life was without her husband.
Sitting on the table beside her sat a pile of cards. She just had not been able to open the festive greetings when so many had been addressed to Mr and Mrs Johnstone. Picking the first one from the pile, she opened it and read the words inside. It was too much. Tears she'd held back for months streamed down her face. She dropped the letter and buried her face in her hands.
Why had he been taken away from her? What did she have to celebrate this Christmas?
Leaving the pile of letters unopened, she made her way to a lonely bed to cry herself to sleep.
It seemed she had only just gone to sleep when loud knocking on the front door woke her up. She looked across at the clock through heavy red rimmed eyes. It was ten past ten, who would be calling at this time of the night. The knocking came again.
"Hold on, I'm coming." She shouted pulling her dressing gown round her as she descended the stairs to the front door. A small face was pressed up against the glass. Carol singers, this late at night???
She opened the door and was nearly bowled over as two young children jumped at her, wrapping their arms around her.
"Merry Christmas Grandma."
"Merry Christmas Mum" came the voice of her daughter Rosemary and her husband, as they moved into the light from the hallway.
"What…. How… Why didn't you tell me…?"
Words were lost as fresh tears spilled down her face as her daughter hugged her close.
"Mum, we sent a letter. In the Christmas card? "
She looked back at the pile of cards, still unopened on the table.
Still in a state of shock, she led the family into the living room.
While her husband took the cases and the children up to the bedrooms, Rosemary sat with her Mom.
"You did know we were coming didn't you Mom?"
"I did not get around… I could not…" tears once more. "Mom, we could not let you spend Christmas alone, or any other Christmas for that matter."
"I don't understand…."
"Mom… After Christmas, we'll start planning for you to come back and stay with us."
Further conversation was stopped by two children filled with the love of the excitement of the trip, the love of their grandmother and the joy of Christmas came running down the stairs.
"Grandma, Grandma" they both shouted. "We've brought you a special Christmas present. Dad says you can open it early."
Eager little hands thrust a package at her.
"But… I can't."
Rosemary put her hand on her mother's, as her husband came and stood behind the two children, eyes wide as saucers with excitement.
"Mom, please, the children bought this with their own money, it means a lot to them."
Slowly she opened the package. Under the wrappings of tissue paper, she carefully removed a bright shining star.
Rosemary took the star, and with help from her husband placed it on the top of the Christmas tree.
Hugging her grandchildren to her, she looked at the star glittering at the top of tree. The final star was in place. Now she could celebrate Christmas.