In 2002, the Hunt family suffered an unbelievable tragedy. They lost their eldest son, Gage, in a skiing accident. The family home had already been decked out for Christmas. The stockings were hung on the fireplace mantel. The tree was massive and beautifully decorated. Scented candles burned in every room. Colorful Manzanita brightened every corner. No one from the outside would ever guess the deep heartache and pain that weighed heavy on the Hunt family home.
One evening, Janet and Joe sat down with their other three children to talk about Christmas. Should they go out of town for the holidays? Should they put away the decorations? What should they do to make things work? No one could agree on what to do. Some thought they should leave town. Some suggested taking down any sign of Christmas.
The family talked and cried; cried and talked. No one could agree on what to do. Finally, Joe stood up and started to take Gage’s stocking down from the mantle. Gina, the youngest, stood up in protest.
“Daddy, no! You can’t take down Gage’s stocking. He is still a part of our family. Why don’t we leave it up all year? We could do good deeds for other people and write them down. We could put them in the stocking. They would be our gifts to Gage. They would be his gifts in heaven.”
Everyone was quiet. For the first time, they were all in agreement. That is what they would do! Joe quietly put the stocking back in it’s place.
Over the next two weeks, presents purchased for Gage were donated to foster children in his name. Gage’s siblings and parents were busy looking for needs in their community. They volunteered at the food bank, helped out at the library, made cookies for an elderly neighbor. Gina raked leaves for a family that was battling illness. They gave coins to the bell ringers. They put extra money in the basket at church. They gave money to the growing number of homeless in their town. Joe hung out at K-Mart to watch the people putting Christmas items on lay away. He quietly paid off a family’s Christmas account.
When Christmas arrived, the Hunt family had more fun than they thought they would. The air in the room seemed lighter, somehow. The gifts opened that day were simple and heartfelt. The joy was in the giving, rather than the receiving.
Many tears were shed for Gage. They looked at pictures and watched home movies. The highlight of the day was opening Gage’s stocking. Each good deed was anonymous. Each person took turns pulling a paper out of the stocking and read it to the group. The small acts of kindness were revealed. The sacrifices and loving gestures continued to pile up as treasures in heaven.
The Hunt family continues to leave the stocking up year round. When it becomes too full, a covered basket holds the overflow. Now that the children are grown, the grandchildren also participate. They mail in their carefully folded good deeds for Grandma and Grandpa to put in uncle Gage’s stocking. The legacy that Gage left in life was great, but the blessings he started in death were much, much more.
“And we know that for all those who love God
All things work together for good,
For those who were called according to His purpose.”