Check out my family's Christmas tree this year. There's something different about it.

Before I show you our tree, there's a quick back story. Back in May, we lost my father to cancer. It still doesn't feel real. I'll stop home and expect to see him lounging in his chair, except he's not. I'll go to text him for advice, but I can't. I miss him more than I can express in words.

Family and friends that have lost a loved one have said that the "firsts" will be the hardest. The first Father's Day has passed and Thanksgiving too. Christmas is different though. My Mom is the biggest fan of Christmas in our family, and honestly, I think my Dad went along with all of the excitement of the holidays for my Mom, my brother and me.

This year my Mom has continued a tradition even though a big part of it is missing. She's done her baking, decorated her house, and wrapped presents.

We never had a fake Christmas tree in my house. It had to be real. So when I stopped home to visit my Mom and saw our tree I was shocked. I yelled out "Ma, you went fake?" She walked down the stairs and said, "take a closer look." Sure enough, it was a real tree, but it is so perfect.

The whole process of buying the tree, getting it in the house and setting it up on the stand was always quite an ordeal. I remember being told to stand clear when my Dad brought the tree in as the expletives flew and the sap covered him. Then, there was trying to make sure it was even. That took a good hour.

This time my brother brought the tree in with ease, stuck it on the stand perfectly even first try and not one needle dropped on the floor. Not only that, but the tree needed no trimming. It's the perfect height to the inch. Once my Mom decorated it, you'd think that it was a fake tree that we pulled out of the attic every year.

Matt Ryan, Townsquare Media
Matt Ryan, Townsquare Media

After my Mom told me the story, I smiled and said "thanks, Dad." After all of the trees he dragged into the house and labored getting set up, I truly believe he made sure this tree was in our house. He wanted my Mom to have an amazing Christmas reminder that even though he won't be with us physically, he will be enjoying the holiday in spirit. Ultimately, watching my brother and I open our presents from the time we were little to just last year was his favorite part of Christmas.

Is this a coincidence? Maybe. If you asked me before my Dad's passing I probably would've said yes. But, too many "coincidences" have happened to me since May to make me think that Dad isn't watching over us.

For anyone missing a loved one this holiday season, or any time of the year I hope this story comforts you. Pay attention, there are little signs everywhere, all the time.

Merry Christmas!

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