Abby Heckathorn poses in front of the fireplace while on vacation visiting her grandfather Mike Heckathorn.

I have eight grandchildren, four boys and four girls. Nice and equal. I love all of them equally. Would do anything for them both physically and monetarily. You name it. If I can do it, I will.

But one grandchild, Abby, has my heart on a string. Some days she is too grown up for an 8-year-old and I cringe at her words and actions. Some days, she can be a spoiled selfish pain. Some days, she has hurtful words and actions.

But on most days, she is innocent, endearing and funny. She has so much love to give the world. I recently spent three weeks with her. Christmas games, drawings, colorings. Breakfast with Santa. The local Christmas parade that I have not gone to in years, maybe decades. Baking Christmas cookies, making Christmas booklets for her cousins. Singing Christmas songs. Watching her dance to her own voice on the radio or television, not really knowing she's doing it. Just being 8 years old.

But after three weeks, she needed to go home. I needed her to go home. It was time for separation. Gladly and excitedly, she flew with me to Phoenix. Gladly and thankfully, I went to take her back to her normal life.

She ran to her mom and hugged her for life itself, and as she hung on to her mom and jibber-jabbered about all things that matter in her world. I stood and smiled; and the inside of me died.

My flight home was empty and filled with me making out Christmas cards to hand deliver in Lancaster and Palmdale. It was too late for me to mail them this year.

I drove back to my city, playing CDs of my liking and choice. I kept waiting to hear her singing voice or a comment or joke about the holidays. Waiting for an 8-year-old's view on her vision of the world; but there was silence.

I entered my residence and there were the remnants of the past three weeks of life with Abby. As I took in the view, I heard Alan Jackson singing, "And the Angels Cried."