The Best and the Hardest Christmas

Isn’t it strange how life can be both exquisitely sweet and bitterly painful at the very same time? Maybe that’s where the word bittersweet originated.

Knowing that this will (most likely) be my father’s last Christmas on earth made the day especially poignant. The songs at church on Christmas Eve touched me in a different way–hearing the words about angels and our Heavenly home, viewing the birth of our Savior from the eyes of Eternity–they will never seem like simple Christmas carols again.

We spent a wonderful time together as a family yesterday–opening gifts, having our traditional breakfast meal. There was even time for a long walk in the afternoon sunshine. Late in the day we visited Dad at the facility, and friends, I have to tell you, it was gut wrenching. I can’t even describe how sad it was–the terrible quality of his life right now is just…heartbreaking. (Don’t misunderstand–he’s well cared for and he’s well loved.) But he can’t talk, can’t recognize anyone, can’t sit up in a chair, can’t feed himself…well, you get the picture. It was the first time I really felt the suffering of Alzheimer’s disease. Suffering for him, suffering for the rest of us. Such a hard, hard thing to bear.

Afterwards, we had dinner at my brother’s home and played a fun game–such a tonic. Good food, loving family, lots of laughter.

Then we came home to receive a phone call that my uncle had passed away (my dad’s college roommate. Dad had brought Uncle Tom home for a holiday and introduced him to his sister. Magic happened!). Uncle Tom’s passing wasn’t a surprise–he had been very ill.

I’m praying the Lord will take Dad “Home” soon, to be reunited with those he loved who had passed before him. “Precious in His sight is the Homecoming of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). 

It’s hard to know why my dad has had to face a slow death via AD, but I do know that God is with him, right alongside him in the midst of this long road Home. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). 

Emmanuel. God is with us. Amen and amen! 

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. Woodeene says:

    My mother is in a similar situation and I keep wondering why she has to stay when the other side has to be so much better. It's heart-breaking and agonizing for me, her only daughter, although she seems content. But what an odd…and hard…Christams.

  2. katsrus says:

    That is such a tough disease and very slow too. Praying for your family.
    Sue B

  3. Anonymous says:

    SUZANNE, My prayers are with you as you spend these last days with thoughts and prayers of your dad! Just hold those memories close and talk of them, share them! It is a fair question as to why does
    Your dad have to suffer? Let the love of Jesus flow thru family and friends to you!
    The only true peace is JESUS! Blessings,Judi Williams

  4. Mocha with Linda says:

    I remember my husband commenting when his dad had gotten so bad with AD that the reason God had left him here was no longer for his dad to learn anything or benefit, but it was probably something we (as in, the family) were supposed to learn. He wanted to be sure we didn't miss what God had to work in our lives through that situation. I ache for you as you walk these final steps.


  5. Laura Wrede says:

    Suzanne- My father-in-law passed away on Dec. 5th this year of AD.

    After watching a once brilliant author and math professor leave this world in the same manner as your father, leaves me wondering why so many of us have to linger in what seems an unrecognizable, useless state. What would be the purpose?

    This is one of those things that only God knows.And I rest in knowing that.

    I am so sorry you and your family have to walk this path. My prayers are with you guys.

  6. antepamfe2003 says:

    Suzanne, I am so sorry to hear of your Uncle's passing. I always wondered if it was right to pray for God to take someone instead of praying for him to heal them. I am so glad to see that you do this . I hope you know what I mean. Prayers are going up for your dad and your family. God bless.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So sorry for you, your dad & your family to have to deal with this debilatating diesase. And to hear about your uncle's death. Even tho his death might not have been unexpected due to long illness, it's still difficult to say good bye. Many blessings to you and your family. Dar Frigo Guidry

  8. Anonymous says:

    Suzanne, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this with your
    Dad. AD is such a sad & terrifying disease. My family went through this with my Dad 3 and a half years ago and it still is painful. At times he thought he was the president of the US. Towards the end he had difficulty swallowing, sitting up and multiple other physical problems. (He also had congestive heart failure). We lost our Dad in the summer, but that fall when his first birthday after his passing came around it was so hard, as the holidays were as well. It's a very difficult thing to go through even though you know it's going to happen & think you're prepared. Take care of yourself. Make sure you're eating well & getting enough sleep. If someone offers to help (with groceries, cooking, cleaning, errands, etc.) take them up on it. You need it & you deserve it. You're going through a very stressful & emotional time. You & your family will be in my thoughts & prayers. God bless you all. {{HUGS}} to you & I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle too.

    Lynn K.
    Lansing, MI

  9. Suess says:

    I am praying for you and your family. When my dad was in the final stages of his illness, we (all 8 of us) would gather around his bed and sing hymns and read him scripture. For the last several days, he was in a coma, but I believe he knew we were there. One thing a therapist told us was to give him permission to go. We assured him that we would all look out for one another and that Jesus was waiting for him. He died on his 83rd birthday. I miss him, but I know that he is with the Lord. Hugs and prayers. Sandi

  10. Anonymous says:

    Isn't it somewhat soothing to know you're not the only one to tread this path, Suzanne? Here's a scripture that explains it, from 2 Cor 1:3-4: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." And I'll add my "God bless you!" –Miriam in IN

  11. Gina says:

    Praying for you daily. Love to you.

  12. Gina says:

    Praying for you daily. Love to you.

  13. Karla says:

    I prayed and prayed that God would take mom home soon! She was in the condition as your dad. When she passed away in the night, I was sad, but also rejoicing in the fact that she was HOME with my dad and her loved ones. No more confusion, pain. My grief was only for myself, she was once again whole and exactly where she wanted to be. In God's arms!!

  14. Suzanne says:

    I am so grateful for these wonderful comments and expressions of love and concern. Thank you for sharing your own experiences with me–means more to me than I could ever say. With appreciation for each one of you, Suzanne

  15. Sandy Kaczanowcke says:

    I've been off the computer for a few days so I just saw this post. So sorry that you have to go through this time. We went through it two years ago with my mother in law. She had to go to a care facility right after the holidays and was there for 8 months before she passed on. She wasn't as bad as your dad. She had to have assistance with using the toilet and washing and needed to have a wheelchair to get around, but she didn't know who we were and she was living in the past. Near the end all she did was sleep all the time. She always was afraid of getting cancer and said I just want to go to sleep and not wake up. That's just what happened, so she got her wish. It was very hard on my husband, especially since he was an only child and didn't have any other family to share this with. His dad had died almost 35 years ago. His mother had lived with us for the last 15 yrs of her life. He took care of all her bills, doctors, insurance, etc. She didn't understand any of that. She was 97 yrs old when she died. At that age I think she just wore out. We don't want to let them go, but you have the right thoughts about him being with his loved ones that have passed on. That's how we felt about her. Everybody in her family had already passed, along with her friends. We liked to think that they were all there, waiting for her with a big Welcome party. I will be keeping you in my prayers Suzanne and praying that God will be with both of you and help you get thru this hard time.
    Sandy Kaczanowcke

  16. Christianfictionaddiction says:

    Thank you for sharing your honest and heart-breaking post. My prayers are with you.


  17. squiresj says:

    I remember a Christmas 2 years ago when we were praying God would take my Mom home. But he left her through Christmas and her birthday – New Years Day – and then took her home on Jan. 31st. My prayers are with you all.
    jrs362 at hotmail dot com