Yesterday I was in line at the grocery store and I could not help but eye the order of the man behind me. I could see what he had planned for Christmas dinner. It was loaded with delicious potential. Our own order, cockles and mussels and salmon and fresh parsley and basil plants and can after can of San Marzano tomato's... showed that we had lots of entertaining ahead.
"Everyone's choices are so much more interesting this time of year," I said to him as I nodded toward his order.
"I know! I have never bought a pomegranate!" he shared happily.
Even the talking in line is different.
I am thankful for the change in music on the radio and the lights in the windows and the smell of pine and the use of candles and the chance to cook and be cooked for. I am thankful for the Christmas decorations I have now had for years; especially the beautiful wise men and manger that were my Grandmothers. I am thankful for stockings hanging and the anticipation of filling them. I am thankful for the plastic placemats I found that smell the same as every doll I ever got from Santa Claus. For at least a few days out of the package I would smell that smell as I kissed my doll's face.
I am thankful for the memories I have of my older brother waking me up in the dark, and telling me that Santa had come, and then telling me what was in my pile because I was too sleepy to get up yet. Too sleepy because it felt like I lay in bed wide awake for hours trembling with excitement that Santa was coming. I am thankful for my parents who made those Christmas mornings so delightful. I am thankful for the overwhelmingly busy times making Christmas for my own children; even for the wrapping until 3 AM Christmas morning; what a treat it was to deliver the same kind of excitement I had enjoyed as a child. So much work but so much fun!
I am thankful for the memories of my grandparents at their houses, special things they cooked and certain dishes they used, that I now try to use the same way. I remember a pair of little red boots my Grandfather chose for me when I was eight, and then he died suddenly just after Christmas. Within two weeks his mother, my Nana, died of a broken heart. So there are those memories, too.
Yup peeps, my eyes and heart well up with love for family and traditions. We have special friends come for Christmas Eve... A special "Christmas Eve" family that I have celebrated with since I met Johnny K. Things are always changing. We would not appreciate the happy if we did not also experience the sad. Life is rich with feelings, always.
If things are good, this too shall pass. If things are bad, this too shall pass. So just enjoy. Enjoy this minute and what you have right now.
It seems like all religions have a celebration of some sort this time of year.. So whatever yours is, I wish you love and frivolity and depth of feeling and surprise...
I wish you the best of this life.
I wanted to tell you what happened to me last weekend, something very meaningful to me. The last few days when I have shared the story, it seems to stir up a little happiness in people, a little hopefulness. I want to capture it here.
When it happened it made me cry the first few hours on Saturday, made me unable to speak clearly, just ask my husband. I would start to cry again even as we ran our Saturday errands.
“We did not just argue in the car; I promise,” I told the salesperson as we looked at stoves.
"I would hate to think someone would cry about appliances,” she said.
“I just got a message from my Aunt. She died almost two years ago,” I said.
Humor me with my little series of events:
I think of my aunt often. In December, two years ago, she sent me the last Christmas gift she would send me. It looked like a jar of shells, but when you read the label it was chocolate candy made to look like shells. I ate some in December and some in January and when she died that February there were only three shells left.
With love, I put the jar with the three shells in my green wooden pantry cupboard. There it stayed, tucked in the back, a sweet reminder. One year, a year and a half, plus a few more months, it sat.
In September of this year I was walking the dog at night. The streetlights were on, and from prior walks I knew the light by the wooden walking bridge seemed to light randomly. It was houses ahead of me and I noticed it was off. I thought:
Auntie, you might light it for me when I am under it
We walked 10 steps and then the dog sniffed and then we walked 5 steps and he sniffed again and then my monkey mind took over and I had passed under the light without thinking of it. It is so hard to pay attention in this life. I had passed three more houses before I suddenly remembered. As I turned to look at the light I thought:
Auntie you did not turn on the light
… and just as my eyes went to the light, the light went on.
Five seconds later it was off. The precise timing made me smile with teeth showing. I asked the dog if he had seen it. He was not paying attention.
When I got home I told my husband, and he listened carefully. He reminded me that the light does flicker, and I said I know, the timing was just pretty cool. I know the light flickers. Probably it was nothing. Just, the timing was amazing. Just as I looked at the light it went on and then off.
Within the last 5 weeks, one day I was home alone and really wanted chocolate. Craving chocolate, I remembered the jar that contained the 3 shells. I thought of her on my own so often, much more often than I saw this jar in the cabinet. So I ate them.
My loving connection was strong without the reminder.
One day more recently; maybe within the last two weeks of this five weeks; I read that if you want to get an answer from someone who has died just ask, and then stay open to getting an answer. And so I asked to hear from her.
Auntie, I would like to hear from you.
This world has frazzled me a bit, was what I was saying to her.
I need some of your goodness, Auntie.
This brings us to Saturday, December 5th. We were going to do errands. My husband went to get the mail. He brought me back a package. It was a small box that had been covered with brown paper the way we used to, an inside out paper bag cut to size. It was from my uncle, my aunts’ husband. I would not even know his handwriting. He has never mailed me anything.
Inside the box was a jar of chocolate shells.
Yes. Pause here, my lovely friend. Feel the wonder.
And then, after you breathe, see that:
Inside the box there was a note.
Unfold the note with me. Take your time. Read it with me:
"The other day a voice came from somewhere asking me to send you this package. It has been on the sideboard for almost two years. I always knew it was for someone special."
Later, your son notices what was on the used box that was brought up from the empty box collection in uncles basement, because it looked to be just the right size… there are angels on the box.
If my aunt can keep her eye on me, so can yours.
Melissa Regan is a Storyteller who is honored to celebrate the life you live and the people you love. She partners with individuals at significant times of life and loss, supporting them by creating and presenting their loved ones story at a service or by planning an inspirational day of rememberance and reflection.
Melissa spent time as a critical care nurse before she became specialized in the field of organ donation. Melissa was well known for the care she gave grieving families and did this delicate work for 14 years. Her experience lead to her teaching heartfelt methods of communication to donation specialists around the world.
Inspired by everything these families taught her, she expanded her perspective on life by studying Positive Psychology, earning both a CiPP and a CAPP. She received training as an end of life doula through INELDA. She has a special grace all her own when it comes to supporting us at times of change and loss.
Melissa is a wife, mother, lifelong learner, and a lover of the wonder you can find in a single moment. She brings this wonder to her public speaking, connecting us to the grandness and depth always present in the day to day.
“Take a day to be thoughtful... the rest of your life is here.”