It’s the end of an era: the last time it will be this way. And I had to spend some time capturing my final thoughts and remembering.

The time had come to pack up Christmas for the last time with our family unit as it has always been – mom, dad, and three sons. Next Christmas will be different, as my oldest son will be getting married and adding in a daughter-in-law to the family mix. I already love her, and I am so excited about finally getting my first daughter. But I am facing the reality that things will be different than they have been so far.

When my husband and I were first married, we had absolutely no Christmas ornaments. I tied some ribbons on our borrowed tree, and made some paper ornaments. It was just fine for our tiny apartment. That year, Steve worked at a department store downtown, and an added perk to his discount was free gift wrapping for employee purchases. He bought me a necklace, and it was gift-wrapped with our first Christmas ornament as décor. We decided that each year, we would add one ornament to our list of Christmas presents to each other. And when we had children, we continued the tradition by buying or making them a Christmas ornament that somehow acknowledged their favorite things for the year. When they would leave to start their own homes, they would get to take the ornaments that recognized each year of their lives.

And so it was that I found myself staring at the ornaments that hung on our Christmas tree and the garland that draped our living room curtains. Because of the significance of the timing, I had hung our first ornament as a couple and each of our sons’ first ornaments on the garland for special exposure. I had a beautiful time of reflection and thanking God for the blessings of our marriage and family through the years. Ours isn’t a “pretty” tree. No decorating magazine will ever take shots of my holiday décor. Our tree is filled with photographs of family, craft projects, and special memories through the years. It is more than I ever could have dreamed.

And now it was time to dismantle it.

Next year, my oldest son’s ornaments will be missing from our home, and they will find a new spot on the tree of newlyweds. My thoughts and prayers for him will almost always include her. And that is good and right.

But change – even good change – still needs to be acknowledged and dealt with appropriately.

And now everything is packed away again for another year.