Dear Stacy,

 You know how you always told me and your children how you didn’t like having a December birthday. The reason you gave was that growing up during the depression meant that when you were little, most people gave you one present and said, Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.”

Well, this present didn’t come in for your birthday December 15, and it is a bit early for Christmas but Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.  I worked on this tribute for you for many months.  It was redesigned from scratch two times.  Part of the hold up was psychological.  I found out that if I wanted pictures, they all had to go up at once.   It seemed a bit strange for me seeing a picture of myself on a tombstone.  I was resigned to my name being there, but to do it the way I did, my pictures needed to be there now.

At first, I had envisioned seeing you and your white coat on the front, but everyone insisted that it not be done that way, since it was for both of us.  At the bottom as you can see, is our wedding date at Lee’s Hill and that revised line from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám which reads, “Ah love, remoulded nearer to the heart’s desire.” We of course read the whole line at our wedding that went like this:

Ah Love! could you and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
     Would not we shatter it to bits — and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
So my picture is on the right side, but the writing will be added later.

On the backside, I decided to put an angel.

You know we both have had guardian angels watching over us all of our lives.  And that would be another blog recounting the many times in both our lives the outcomes would have been different without them.  At first, I was going to use a Bible verse about angels, but decided because of all those years lecturing to leave one last lesson on our stone hence the writing, “Be an angel to others as a way of thanking God for the help your Angels have given you.”

This monument going up during the Christmas season, is yet another reminder of how much you are missed.  Everywhere around this house are Christmas memories of you.  All those beautiful mugs you picked out each year, the Christmas tree ornaments, the decorations from our travels.

Holly was just saying a few days ago, how much she loved Christmas, but how much she missed you.  She remembers so many years going shopping with you for me.  And this one store in particular, she always cries when she enters with memories of you sitting there nodding in approval at your purchase.  You know Stacy, she is still shopping for you.  My presents are wrapped with the message With Love from Santa.  The macadamia nuts are in my stocking as you once put them, and each year I continue to get a new mug.

You know Stacy, you weren’t just my Santa Claus, but the whole family’s Santa.   I might have picked out most  of the gifts, but someone had to pay for them.  And although you used to protest a bit,  you knew how much Christmas meant to me.  And especially when William and Holly came along, you delighted in those trips to Richmond to buy all of those toys before our city had a mall, or Wal-Mart, or Toys r Us.

And believe it or not, you actually only missed one Christmas morning when Will and Holly were young, but babies don’t wait and neither do  4 and 5 year olds, so Christmas had to proceed without you that year.  Thank goodness my brother Jonathan was there to put together those toys.

On another Christmas, one of my first essays that The Free Lance Star published was the story of how mad I was when you didn’t show up to meet us at the church one Christmas Eve.  But when you came home, you explained how you had saved the life of a mother and baby. Boy, did I ever feel guilty.  But even more memorable was that Christmas Eve a few years  later when a local minister asked me to tell the story in his church, and much to our surprise a little girl named Holly stood up and said “Thank you Dr. Lloyd for saving my life.”  There wasn’t a dry eye in the church that Christmas Eve.

So Merry Christmas Stacy.  I hope you like your tribute.  You were too humble in life to ever expect something like this.   All of those writings under your picture sum up the wonderful man you were.   And how talented and smart you were.  And I know how very proud you were to serve the city like you did for so many years.  And your five children gave you those 13 grandchildren to hold and love and 3 great-grandchildren. (And another on the way) And they all called you Opa.  I remember when your first grandchild, Sarah, was born in December,  you said, “Make sure her birthday is special.”   And her parents saw to that.   And your 12th grandchild, Jacob, who was almost born on Christmas gets a special celebration as well.

So Stacy,  this monument is yet another tangible reminder of a life well lived, a man well loved, and someone who will remain in our hearts and minds not only at Christmas, but forever.

Love always,