Harald's Last Christmas Letter
In 2006, Harald
Bredesen decided against sending his annual Christmas
missive to friends and family. As usual, he was
extremely busy, and he felt he didn't have time. Harald
was a perfectionist when it came to letter-writing —
especially his Christmas letters. We heard stories of
people framing them and hanging them on walls. One year,
Pat Boone wrote, "Harald, your Christmas letters are
He loved the compliments, but they may have increased
his annual need to "top last year." The writing took a
lot of effort.
Only a week before Christmas 2006, he changed his
mind. He decided he needed to send one, but he wasn't
sure what he wanted to say. He asked me if I had any
ideas. As it happened, I had already been thinking about
my own favorite Christmas memory. I told him the story
and he thought it would make a great beginning to an
When the letter was finalized, I printed some samples
for Harald on Christmas letterhead and sent them over to
One of the samples somehow fell into a box of
material going to one of our Charisma Ministries board
members, the owner of the legendary Carlsbad Raceway in
Carlsbad, California, Jeff Grismer. Harald often spoke
of the special place Jeff held his life. "Other than Gen
[Harald's wife] I spend more time praying with Jeff than
Jeff saw the letter, and his heart fell. He called me
and asked if Harald had had a premonition of
his death. It was only then that I realized what an
odd thing Harald had prepared — a Christmas letter about
When I told him how Jeff had responded, he said, "As
far as I know, you're stuck with me for awhile longer."
It was a good line. I put it in the letter, sent the
new version to Harald for final approval, and we
soon started the production process. Even with time
short, Harald and Gen personalized many of them. On
December 23rd and 24th, the letters went in the mail.
People would get them late, but they would get them.
On the 25th, Harald and his family had what — in
separate conversations — he and two of his children
declared to me was "the best Christmas" any of them
The morning of the 26th, Harald and I spoke at length
by phone. We spoke about priorities for the coming year
In the early afternoon of the 26th, while climbing
the stairs with a flower in his hand, he fell backward,
landing hard on the wood floor at the bottom of the
stairs, severely injuring his head.
He remained conscious and able to communicate with
loved ones that day and into the evening. Late that
night, he slipped into a coma. He died, December 29,
2006 at age 88.
People began receiving the Christmas letter the day
he fell. Many received the letter and news of the fall
within minutes of one another. Some received the letter
after hearing about Harald's death.
Both on "The 700 Club" and at Harald's memorial
service, Gordon Robertson told about being out of town
that week. He arrived home shortly after hearing of
Harald's passing. Still mourning the loss of his friend,
he found the remarkable Christmas letter waiting on
Here was a letter about death from someone who did not expect to die soon, but
who had come to peace with death's inevitability, and found joy in the expectancy.
It was Christmas Eve, 1985. My friend wanted to tell his two young children
about Christmas in a way that would help them understand its importance.
He began, "Because of Christmas, we don't have to fear death." . . . The
manger in Bethlehem held the most precious package ever delivered into time
and space — precious, not just in a huge, cosmic sense, but personally. He
fills us with love and relieves our fears. Instead of a grim reaper, we who have
accepted His salvation, find at the end of the road, our dear Friend, Jesus, full
of joy and love, waiting to personally escort each one of us to the other side."
The friend Harald mentions at the beginning of
the letter is me. It was my daughter, Angela, who came
to Christ that Christmas Eve night when I gathered my
family together to talk about Christmas, and began with
this wonderful news.
Because of Christmas, we don't have to fear
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