For over thirty years I have had the pleasure of meeting with one of my best friends for a time of prayer at his medical office each Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. During each of the over 1500 meetings we have had, my friend takes a can of Maxwell House Coffee off the shelf and brews us a fresh cup of coffee. Over this cup of coffee we have shared the joys and sorrows of living life, always leaving with a time of shared prayers for each other and our families.
Over the entire time of our friendship, my friend has embraced and encouraged my role as Santa Claus, offering his weekly encouragement for my ministry. He is also aware of the unique relationship I have developed with my photographer Larry Hersberger at Kissing Tree Studio.
For over five years now, Larry and I have had “Photos with Santa” sessions almost monthly at his studio in Thomasville, North Carolina. We spend over an hour with each client as Larry creates a magical story about their visit with Santa Claus in his own den, on the night before Christmas.
To add authenticity to his set, and make it more memorable for his clients, Larry suggests that they bring family memorabilia that can become part of the photographic set design. We’ve had folks bring in family photographs, a family Bible, stockings belonging to the children, bronzed baby shoes, and special Christmas ornaments for the tree.
Last month during a special session with a three-year-old young lady, the mother brought several of her family heirlooms to the studio. They included a pair of bronzed cowboy boots that belonged to her grandfather, a Christmas ornament that the little girl had made from her hand-print in clay, and a photo of her grandmother.
Then Larry came into the studio with a blue Maxwell House Coffee can, just like the one my friend had served me from for years. I asked Larry if we were going to have coffee instead of milk and cookies and he said, “No, this is grandma! When she died, she told her family she wanted to be creamated and placed in a Maxwell House Coffee can.” I was speechless, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
When the mother entered the studio I asked her to explain why grandma wanted to be in a coffee can. She explained that when grandma, Margaret, was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to move in with her daughter and her husband. Each morning she would say, “I don’t need any of that fancy coffee…just give me the cheap stuff.” She told her family that when she died she wanted to be creamated and put in a Maxwell House Coffee can. Two weeks later, she passed away at home at the age of 83, and when the funeral home came to the house to pick up her remains, her son-in-law went into the kitchen, emptied out the coffee can and gave it to the funeral director. The director inquired, “What’s this for?” and he explained his mother-in-law’s final wishes.
So, Margaret is in the background of this photograph of Santa and her great granddaughter, no doubt beaming with pride over her little one. To me, the whole experience has brought new meaning to the Maxwell House slogan, “Good to the last drop,” and I will no longer consider Maxwell House coffee as “cheap coffee.” To me, this memory makes it priceless.