A Christmas to Remember


A Christmas to Remember

I would like to share this real life experience with you for this Christmas Holiday. I have changed the names in this story to protect the family involved. I am the Airman referred to as Carl Peterson. I was just 18 years old and this was my first christmas away from home. Yes, It is one I will always remember. At this point in my life I realize that this is only a memory for me. However, some wonderful things happened because of this family tragedy that have made a lasting impression on the rest of my life.

How much I have come to realize that sometimes we are only there to respond to the circumstances we are in. There in lies a choice that we must make, and we cannot know what our decision will bring into our life and the lives of those we will touch. As I believe you will read below, this event from my own life was a sharing on several levels between many different people which was beautifully played out for the benefit of all concerned.   

Have a truly blessed Christmas and a very prosperous new year. 
And thank you All for becoming a part of my Journey.

Carl Azcar – Christmas 2007



It was 7 AM on December twenty-seventh when I arrived at the New Orleans Port Authority Train Station. The Louisville Nashville (the Old Reliable), would not be leaving until 8 AM. I had twenty-five cents left to sustain me until noon-day chow back at Keesler Air Force Base. I found the Station Restaurant and took a seat at the counter.

"Hi, Airman," said a perky waitress, "what’ll you have for breakfast?"

She had really caught me by surprise. "Uh.... how much is a doughnut and coffee?" 
"Thirty-five cents," came her quick reply.
I could feel the quarter sweating in my hand – " I'll just have a coffee."

"What, no juice, no hot cakes, no eggs?" she snapped.

"No - no, just coffee," I said, feeling a little embarrassed. 
 And while I waited for my coffee, my mind reviewed the last seven days.

20 December, 1955. Headquarters 3396th Student Squadron. I  reported to the First Sergeant. "Sir, Airman third Class Peterson, AF 19529846 reporting. I wish to cancel my Christmas leave."  The request was granted. As I was leaving the Sergeant called me back. “Peterson, would you like to go somewhere for Christmas, compliments of the U.S. Air Force?" I said, "Yes sir," and was directed to the Sergeant Major's office for a briefing.

An airman of my same rank had died after his plane crashed on Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. They were flying his body to New Orleans by military transport –  it then needed to be accompanied by a military escort to Pensacola, Florida for burial. I would receive train tickets from Keesler, to New Orleans, to Pensacola, and return, plus fifty dollars for travel expenses. 

On 21 December, I left for New Orleans. I arrived at 7 PM and made contact with the Military Transport Base on my orders. They told me to report the next morning at – 0700 hrs. to the baggage handling area of the Port Authority Terminal. There I would supervise the transfer of the casket to civilian transport.

On 22 December – 0730 hrs. I completed the necessary arrangements at the Port Terminal and watched silently as the casket was transferred to the baggage car. We reached Pensacola at 6 PM that evening. A hearse and the father of the deceased airman were waiting our arrival. Again, documents were signed, and the body of Charles Anders was taken to the funeral home for a prayer service at 8 PM that evening. I rode to the funeral home with Mr. Anders.

After many miles of silence he said. "I've got to say something and I don't want you to be offended.  I wish they would have sent anyone but you."

His comment startled me. "I'm sorry," I replied. 

He took out his wallet and handed me a picture. It was of his son: dressed in military blues, tall, blond.  He looked enough like me to be my brother. 

He spoke again. "There's something else you'll have to know. Charles was a mama's boy. Thirty days before he went to Iwo Jima, he got married. Now, after being gone for nine months, he's coming home in a casket. I just want you to understand."  We continued on in silence.

I stayed at the funeral home as a military honor guard. At 8 PM the family arrived. Silently Mrs. Anders walked to her son's casket. She turned to her husband. "Why is the casket closed? I want to see my boy." Mr. Anders came to me, "Why isn't the casket open?" he asked

The funeral director quickly came to my aid. He took the family aside and told them, "The documents that accompanied the casket state that your son died, in a military hospital two weeks ago, of severe burns."

Still insisting that she see her son, the director agreed to open the casket lid. A metal frame with a black opaque glass completely covered the body. Mrs. Anders nearly collapsed with grief. I was so shaken by the ordeal that I contacted the Duty Officer at the Pensacola Air Base for Instructions. My orders were explicit: "Identification of the deceased Positive, casket to remain sealed unless request is accompanied by a court order."  “I need a court order to see my son’s body” cried Mrs. Anders. “No. No. It’s OK.” said Mr. Anders, he turned to the funeral director. “We’ll accept the military's  order.”
December 23 rd. - At 10 AM, the family and friends gathered at the cemetery.   A military honor guard fired the traditional gun salute and 'Taps' was played. At the end of the ceremony, the flag which draped the casket was removed, folded and handed to me.  As per my orders, I presented it to Charles Anders’ young wife. In a very touching gesture, she turned and gave the flag to Charles' mother. 

What does it take to get a cup of coffee in this place? I caught the waitress' glance and motioned to my cup. She said she would be, “right  there.” Resigned to waiting, more memories of these last few days came to mind.

December 24 th, the Anders family invited me to spend Christmas with them at the family farm in Alabama. My orders stated, "There should be no fraternization with family members,” but the Duty Officer at Pensacola Air Base felt the holiday made an exception to that rule. 

On our drive to the farm, we passed a country church which displayed the sign, "Christmas Midnight Mass – 11 PM.” Mr. Anders offered me the use of the car and asked if I would take his daughter and the young Mrs. Anders to church that night. 

At 10:30 PM, I stood on the darkened porch of the old farm house waiting for the car keys. The only light was a lone street lamp on the road. Within the house there was a sudden shriek! The screen door flew open and Mrs. Anders threw her arms around me, crying, "Charles, Charles, I knew you would come home for Christmas! - Your not dead. I knew it! I knew it!”
I froze with fright.  I couldn't speak. 

Mr. Anders ran out. "No, no, this is Carl. He brought Charles home for us."
"Oh, I'm sorry,  I'm so sorry," she cried. Comforting his grieving wife, he gently took her into the house.

I stayed that night at Mr. Anders’ brother's house. On Christmas morning, I joined the family in the living room as the children opened their presents. The youngest boy, about age six, became a self-appointed master of ceremonies and called out the name on each gift. Suddenly he paused – then spelled, "C, A, R, L – Daddy, I don't know how to say this name."

"That's Carl, he is spending Christmas with us," replied his father.

The little boy ran to me with the gift. I must have appeared quite stunned. After a moment he said, "Aren't you going to open it?"

"Yes, I guess I should." And the children all watched as I opened the gift. It was a bottle of shaving lotion. I thanked them, then quickly went to my room. I didn't want them to see me cry. 

That evening, I  returned  with the family to Pensacola.

The morning of December 26 th, I left for New Orleans and my trip back to Keesler Air Force Base. For five days my life had been touched by a family tragedy. The ordeal over, I now sat alone, waiting for a train, waiting  – how many minutes – for a cup of coffee?

Suddenly my waitress appeared before me. First she put down a large orange juice, then a plate of ham and eggs, a stack of toast, and coffee.
"Hey wait a minute," I cried out, "I didn't order all this. I've only got two bits to my name." With the kindest voice I can remember, she said, “Look, son, my boy is in Germany this year and didn't get home for Christmas. It looks like you didn't either. So, Merry Christmas, – OK?”

All the loneliness and tension of these past six days suddenly welled up inside me.  That breakfast was the wettest ham and eggs I have ever eaten! I left the waitress my two bits for a tip.

Every Christmas since that one in 1955, I think about those people and these events. It was my first Christmas away from home, and one I will always remember.
It was not until I began this writing, that I realized the significance of that first Christmas on my own: 

A number of events had taken place in a very short period of time. For seven days I moved and responded to things that were happening around me. I realize that I was not the cause of this experience, rather, I found that my role was to respond to the needs of others. For myself, at eighteen years of age, this experience had a profound effect on me: on my realizations, on the whole meaning of my existence as I stood there on the threshold of my manhood. 

I am not here in this world by some stroke of fate. I am here with a definite purpose and design.  Even the waitress in the Restaurant – knowing nothing of the ordeal I had just gone through – seemed to be drawn into that agenda. Something prompted her to respond the way that she did. It was like she came in right on cue. 

If Spirit is directing this whole thing, then, am I just some kind of puppet on a string? Nothing could be further from the truth. I could have gone home for Christmas; my leave had been approved, there was nothing that would have stood in my way. The one problem I faced was that I barely had enough money for the trip. An Airman 3rd class; 3500 miles from home, I had saved enough for the train fare but had never even thought how I was going to eat for ten days.  I couldn't  ask my father for money that I knew the family did not have to give.  With those circumstances, I felt it was just best to cancel my leave. This in turn created another event for which I have never had an explanation.

I had a large box of Christmas presents that I was going to take home with me.  I took this box to the Base Post Office and mailed it; figuring it would get there some time after Christmas. To get to Keesler, Mississippi from Tacoma, the trip took five days and five different trains.  Given that many connections to make; how long do you think it would take to ship a large box that far, by rail – At Christmas time?

I had called my family to let them know I would not be home for Christmas, and that I was sending a box of presents that would get there – some time, I really wasn't sure when.  I returned on the 27 th of December and a gift was waiting for me.  I called the family that evening and thanked them . My father then told me something that I found almost unbelievable. When they came home from Mass on Christmas morning, the large box I had sent on the 20 th of December, was sitting on the front porch. My father was very thankful because money was so short that they had very little to spend. My box of gifts meant that there was something for everyone.  At the time, I couldn't figure out how that box got there so fast. I know now that nothing is impossible. When the Spirit of Christmas decides that a box will be delivered on Christmas morning; nothing could have stopped it, it will be there.

A Family tragedy had touched me in a very special way.  Through that experience I came to understand the true meaning of what it means to give; and  then to receive, in return for what I had done.  What a wonderful gift I received. It was a Christmas I will always remember.

May the Spirit of Christmas, Past, Present, and Future,  be with you always.         
Carl Azcar – December, 2007

UrsulaD's picture

Thank you so much Carl for sharing that very special experience with us. I have always felt that there is something magical about Christmas if we forget the commercialism and open to the love and giving.
In Love and Christmas Spirit

Carl-Azcar's picture

The summer of 1994 I had another one of those special moments. I had been working on a summer theatre production that concerned the subject of "Gay Bashing." I designed the sets and worked with the crew and this had a profound effect on me. I should not be surprised that this ended in a very special event that brought me to a new level of awareness.

A New Awareness

At 5:45 a.m. on a July morning, my apartment intercom went off with a quadruple buzz. I was jolted awake by this and answered the phone, but the prankster was long gone. As I returned to my bed, I realized that this intrusion had awakened me out of a deep dream state; the substance of which was still fresh in my memory. As I tried to go back to sleep, words would not stop going through my head. Half asleep, I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote out my thoughts. I then went fast to sleep and did not wake up again until 9 a.m. I remembered the buzzer incident and that I had written something on a piece of paper. I read the words. They were clear and precise. What I want to share with you is exactly as it was written; no editing or omissions; just this metaphor of how theatre is a reflection of our lives.

“Theatre is hallowed ground.
It is here that we see ourselves and others as we truly are.
Our Souls are laid bare.
As we impart ourselves in this process,
we experience the true reality of our utter humanity.
And that is good.

Shakespeare was right, “All the world is a stage.”
Every one of us has dared to put on the costume of mortality;
our earthly flesh. We have dared:
- to be human
- to be truly alive,
- to experience
and loneliness;
- but then to reach out,
- to hold each other,
- and thus to love.

And by making this decision, to love, we receive
the cheers and applause of the Universe; a just recognition
of our efforts and the lessons we have learned.

And it is good, yes, it is good.”
Carl Azcar (1994)

sophie's picture

Thank-you for those stories Carl-Azcar. Your telling of them really made them live for me. I remember once describing myself to my current partner (before I met him in person) as "an outrageous little piece of theater". This notion seems to make life more "livable" eh? Oh so serious and not at all serious at the same time...playing your part well then dropping the role.


Max's picture

Thank you, Carl, for sharing such beauty. How it helps us all to grow and reevaluate many, many happenings.

When I was a young woman, I became very jaded with the commercialism of/in life. My mother told me to take particular notice of people during the Christmas season. They expressed more love, hope, compassion and happiness - even though most of them didn't understand why. She explained that it was the pure love being sent that made this happen and what if we were to send this pure love to everyone, all of the time? She never pressed me for an answer or opinion. She simply planted seeds. Thank you again, for bringing this to mind.

Hi Carl,

Thanks for sharing your christmas story . I especially liked the words you wrote down from your dream.

Carl-Azcar's picture


Thank you for reading the experiences I had, and thank you for your comments as well. Both those event were important moments in my life because I learned a great deal from both of them. The story I call "A New Awareness" was something that happened just the way I wrote about it. Luckily I had a piece of note paper on my night stand and I just wrote out what I was hearing in my head because I couldn't sleep until I wrote that out. I was so groggy that the next morning it was like I was remembering a dream, but I did remember I had written something on a piece of paper, and sure enough, there is was on my night stand next to my bed. And when I read it, I was a bit astonished at what I had written because I had never had thoughts like that before this time. It was almost like I had taken down notes from a class I was attending. So maybe it was a dream, I just don't know. But I am certainly happy it happened that way.

I have also figured that the sound of my inner-com buzzer, was just possibly in my head and not something I actually heard. But it sure woke me up. If it hadn't I would never even have realized this had happened. My Spirit Guides enjoy doing things this way, in fact sometimes I can almost hear them laughing because they really know how to push my buttons.

Have a great New Year,

Carl Azcar

penny_stone's picture

I cried while reading your Christmas story tonight, Carl. This is pretty surprising as I am not typically quite so emotional. I hardly ever cry, but your story deeply touched me. Spirit works in wondrous ways and it never ceases to amaze me! I don't usually thank people for making me cry, but tonight I want to thank you for stirring this emotion in me with your sweet stories!

I wish you much love, peace, and happiness in the New Year and beyond!

Love & light,
Penny :-)

Carl-Azcar's picture

Dear Penny,

Thank you for your comments. I cried when I wrote that story out, and the full emotions

of it still comes back to me when I get to the part where the waitress put all that food in

front of me. She had no idea of what I had experienced during the previous 5 days. And

after she told me her son was stationed in Germany that christmas and didn't get home

and said, "So merry Christmas, – OK?" I felt a flood of tears that I just couldn't stop.


Truely, there has never been a Christmas since that time when I do not remember the

people and the circumstances of that first christmas away from home.


Have a wonderful New Year. Thank you for being part of this Transition Team.

With God's Love and Blessings, 

Carl Azcar 


Carl-Azcar's picture

Dear Sophie,


I wanted to ask you the translation of your latin phrase in your e-mail above. I can't remember enough of my high school latin to make out all the word. I know Deus, is God. I think Vocatus is Voice, but I could be out in left field on this one.


Yes I believe we are all here to play-out our roles. Sometimes we are the star, and other times we are just bit player whose job it is to keep the action moving. I mean, we certainly would not want it to get boring. Actually I have a degree in Theatre Design so it is not unusual that I would relate things to that profession.


Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

Have a wonderful New Year. Thanks for being on the Transformation Team.


Carl Azcar 

Carl-Azcar's picture

Dear Max,


Thank you for reading my Christmas Story. Christmas has never been a commercial holiday for me, because I just don't have that kind of money to spend. It is however a very special time of year. You will have to wait now until next

year because I have a heartwarming family story that I will share with all of you.


Have a wonderful New Year. Thank for being on the Transformation Team.

Carl Azcar 

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