Merry Christmas

The latest ornament additions to our Christmas tree, made with love by Dawn and her parents.

What follows is an editorial I wrote last year at about this time. My community had been suffering following the deaths of several people that had died too soon. I thought maybe my words would help ease one person’s pain, even if it was only for a minute. I copied it to my blog at the time. . .

For everyone that is feeling the excruciating pain that the loss of a loved one brings this Christmas, please know that you are not alone- not to rejoice because others are hurting, but to take comfort in the fact that others understand your pain and grief.

It was just over a decade ago that my grandpa died on Christmas Eve. Not that he really had any control over his time of death, but, I believe in my heart that he knew Christmas Eve was the only time the entire family would be together. We all got to be with him that night as he slowly faded. He couldn’t have chosen a more perfect time to die- surrounded by the ones that loved the him most. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. And while the memories are still painful, they are peaceful as well. We all still miss him immensely.

I came across the following words last night in book called The In-Between by 
Erica Staab. It’s an incredible and powerful short little book about the journey we take when we are in the process of healing from the depths of the pain and grief 
that only the loss of a loved one brings.

“When I listen closely I can hear your heart breaking, I don’t have to know what caused you such pain, what tears at the fabric of your heart. I can feel how deep your loss is, I can see the tears held behind your eyes. I can hear the catch in your voice when you say “I’m fine.”

Although all of our journeys look different-

often they begin in the same place-
that of torn faith, of a shattered heart,
of a moment in time where the world stopped
and where life seemed to stand still…” 

For everyone reeling from the pain of a lost loved one this Christmas, take comfort in the love that family and friends bring. Know that at sometime in the future, you will be okay. Take comfort in the fact that you are never alone.

Peace and love to everyone this season and Merry Christmas. 
Wrap yourselves in the arms of your loved ones and rejoice.


At the time I wrote this I was thinking particularly of my good friends that had lost their infant son a few months before as well as two other friends that had just lost their husbands to cancer. Besides those deaths, my daughter’s best childhood friend had just lost her mom when she was hit by a drunk driver and a another good friend of my kids was killed in a hunting accident. There had also been a host of others in the community that had passed. My heart was so incredibly heavy at the time. Little did I know that a short eight months later it would be our family and friends that would be the ones reeling from the agonizing pain and grief of sudden death. Little did I know that we would be the ones with shattered hearts struggling to face our first Christmas with a gaping hole in our family. And, yet, we are not alone

Sadly, since my mom, sister-in-law, and niece were killed in August, my dear friend Julie (whose mom is also a dear friend of mine) was killed in a car accident and another dear friend lost her first grandchild. And still there have been others. More families that are reeling from the pain of death. More families that are attempting to move forward with shattered hearts. . .

Although the next couple of days will be extremely difficult for us, we’ll somehow manage. We’ll tell stories, eat too much, and laugh until our sides ache–despite the fact that our hearts are broken. We will go on.  

We will go on with hope for brighter days, with love for one another, and with joy (and sorrow) in our hearts. Even though it’s so difficult right now to look ahead to the next chapter, our family’s story has so much more to be written. 

Make you have a blessed, joyous, and peaceful holiday season. Take comfort in the love that family and friends bring. Take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. With love. . . 


The perfect tree. . .

Christmas Tree 2012- A tree filled with love and memories.

In case anyone was following my mini Facebook saga last weekend- I am happy and relieved to report that my missing Christmas ornaments were found, safe and sound, tucked away in the dark abyss between our garage and house. Over the course of the weekend I had looked through every nook and cranny, high and low, in search of the ornaments. Finally, thanks to a tip from my youngest, I found the missing treasures. During the adventure I discovered that apparently we never got rid of any of the kids’ old toys (the attic is jam packed with them) and I found the blue Mason jars I had been looking for (they were tucked neatly on a shelf in plain sight, go figure). I even took a few trips down memory lane as old trinkets that I had packed away for safe keeping kept surfacing in my quest. As most days are since the crash, the entire weekend was bittersweet. Tears and laughter, joy and sorrow. . .

I’m guessing some of you are wondering how I could lose boxes of Christmas ornaments over just a year’s time. I should maybe explain that while, yes, it would be possible in my world to do just that, we actually hadn’t put up a tree for at least the last five years, maybe more. (Gasp! I know, but my kids turned out just fine despite the Scroogieness.) This year, of course, was different. I knew I had to put up a tree. Thanks to the Clara City Lions and their annual tree sale, I was able to get a near perfect pine of some sort for only $30 bucks. Anyways…

Although I knew deep down that my ornaments were somewhere in my abode, I was beginning to get a little panicky. I tend to go on throwing binges occasionally and I wondered if they had accidentally been tossed. I didn’t entertain that thought for long though because if that would have been the case, I probably would have needed a shot (or ten) of valium. You see, other than a few plain red balls, I have yet, in my 43 years, to purchase a single Christmas tree ornament for my tree. Nearly every one of the ornaments has been given to me or my kids by my mom.

I don’t know when my mom started purchasing ornaments but I do know that I have my own box (somewhere in my house) dating to my first Christmas way back in ’69. When my kids were born she continued the tradition. All three of the kiddos have ornaments, some that are just dated and others with short handwritten greetings on them, back to the years of their birth.

It’s funny, even after I stopped putting up a tree, my mom kept giving me ornaments. She even started giving me boxed, filler type ornaments. Really? I thought as I piled those boxes up in my closet year after year and wondered why she was still giving me ornaments, especially the multi-pack boxes of fillers. I could maybe see the keepsake variety, but the boxes?

One of the filler ornaments. It’s funny because I
would  have picked the same thing!
Love the simpleness!

I always appreciated every ornament that she gave over the years, although I never quite grasped the entire reason why. There were even times over the years that I thought geez, I’d like to decorate a tree with my own ornaments that I had picked out myself (FYI: I at one time had an extremely bratty side to me. If you don’t believe it, because I know it’s hard to believe, ask my brothers. I’m sure they’d regale you with a few several tales.) You know, I wanted that perfect department store tree. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. 

This year (on so many levels) was different. I got it. I saw the bigger picture. As I unpacked ornament after ornament, it dawned on me what my mom was up to all these years. She had been busy creating the perfect tree for us- a whimsical mix of ornaments that over the years became a tree that was rooted in tremendous love and beautiful memories. You can’t buy perfection like that in a department store.

A greeting with love from Grandma!

This must be from the year I
swore off McDonalds.

It’s funny how so many things take on new meanings after we finally see the bigger picture. Ornaments that were once thought of as nothing more than a simple, heartfelt gift are now sparkling reminders of a mother’s and a grandmother’s unending and deep-rooted love. Every year now, for the rest of my life, Christmas memories of my mom will be front and center in my heart when I decorate the tree. It will be the same for my kids as they will soon have trees of their own. This year when I take down the tree, I will be creating boxes for each one, filled with their own ornaments of love and memories from Grandma Marty. Which brings me back to the boxes of filler ornaments. . .

My mom, in her quiet wisdom, knew that someday, I’d return to putting up a tree. She also knew that the kids would someday get their own ornaments leaving my tree pretty sparse. Of course I would need something to put on the tree and the boxes of filler ornaments would work perfectly until she could repopulate my tree with newer keepsake ornaments. I can only imagine the beauties she would have found for me.

For years to come, I will have the perfect foundation of beautiful ornaments, handpicked by my mom with love, to create a new tree–one that blends the old with the new and will be forever rooted in love and memories. And that, to me, is the perfect tree.

 These two beauties above were given to me this year from two women that now occupy a tremendous space in my heart– Stacy (Michelle’s sister, Julia’s aunt) and Christi (Michelle’s step-mom, Julia’s grandma). These new additions to my tree are hanging with incredible love. They remarkably blend in perfectly with the old and couldn’t be a more wonderful addition to the foundation for future trees– ones that will be filled with love and beautiful memories.