This week a group of friends, all working and/or retired teachers, celebrated our Christmas pot luck dinner. I drove almost two hours one way to see them, as I do every month, but I love this group of friends and am willing to do it. We always go to Anne and Bobby’s log cabin home set back off a country road, surrounded by forest and fields. Years ago, they built this beautiful log home mostly by themselves; they dug their own well and set themselves up to be as self-sufficient as possible. They have a deep sense of stewardship for the earth and live as simply as possible. Their home is cozy and warm and I always feel welcome.
The group, as a whole, is creative and fun. We always go for a hike before dinner, enjoy our meal and then often play board games or share photos and conversations of recent trips or events. This month we had a celebrative Christmas party.
I arrived a little late and found Bobby putting the finishing touches on a Christmas tree set up in the corner. I complimented him on his choice, assuming that he had cut down one of the many trees on his property. He invited me to come take a closer look. I was amazed! He had found a dead maple tree trunk, put it in a pot and using fresh spruce boughs and a drill and ingenuity, inserted the live boughs to create a truly beautiful little Christmas tree.
“Would you call this a fake live tree or a live fake tree?” he laughed.
We always pick a theme for our dinner. This month, because it was Christmas, we all made ‘ginger’ dishes. There was carrot ginger soup, cheese and ginger mini sandwiches, ginger flavoured cheese, a stirfry with ginger sauce and rice, ginger and cabbage salad, ginger molasses cookies, chocolate covered candied ginger, and a lemon grass/ginger bubbling beverage.
After dinner we constructed a gingerbread house that turned into a gingerbread stable when one of the walls collapsed. We had lots of laughter and fun as each of us contributed to the Christmas creche we spontaneously created with two gingerbread figures for Mary and Joseph. A bright candy wrapper became a swaddling blanket for the baby Jesus, a tiny toy figurine Anne found that looked more like a tiny alien than a baby, and we stuck him into a gingerbread molasses cookie cradle. A plastic toy giraffe became the ‘donkey’ that carried Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Lyn, with a huge amount of patience, finished off the final touches to the gingerbread stable with candies and chocolate.
We exchanged gifts and cards: Moraine had a friendship bracelet for each of us, brought back from her recent trip to Guatemala; Lyn had hand-made soaps and toothpaste she had made at a local workshop; I handed out my own photo Christmas cards and Anne and Bobby gave us each a copy of their annual “Egbert Courier” newsletter.
Kathy brought a Christmas trivia game and we had fun asking each other questions and trying to come up with the correct answers as a group. Many of the questions had to do with Christmas carols and each time one came up, we would stop the game and sing a Christmas song together with Anne playing piano and Bobby his violin.
At the end of the night, we dimmed the lights, and with musical accompaniment and two part harmony, we sang “Silent Night” in unison. With lots of hugs and kisses, we said our goodbyes and wished each other a Merry Christmas.
For me, this was a memorable evening that I will treasure for years to come. It was the simple things that counted the most: good friendships, a tasty meal, music, hand-made gifts, and lots of laughter and spontaneity.
Merry Christmas to all. I pray that you too will have a memory-filled, happy holiday season.
Yesterday my Snack ‘n Chat group that meets weekly had one of our potluck lunches. One of the women has been recently widowed after forty-seven years of marriage and she told us a beautiful story about the loss of her wedding ring in a local store shortly after her husband’s death and its miraculous recovery.
For two weeks after the loss of the ring, she returned to that store over and over again, asking in different departments and areas of the store if it had been found. No one had seen it.
Again this week, she asked a young clerk if the ring happened to be under the cash area on a shelf perhaps. It wasn’t. My friend moved on to do more shopping and the young girl went to talk to one of her friends in the store. The next thing my friend heard was her name being called over the P.A. system. She was to return to the same counter again.
“Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up,” the young girl said. “We have found a wedding ring. It may not be yours. Security is bringing it to us.”
They all watched with anticipation as a uniformed guard approached. He stood before them and pulled out a clear plastic bag from his pocket. Inside was the wedding ring!
My friend was overjoyed and broke out in loud squeals and a mixture of tears and laughter. The clerks and guard all joined her causing a joyful ruckus that could be heard throughout the store.
Where had the ring been all this time? No one was sure but my friend’s persistence and prayers paid off.
We each shared stories that day about miraculous events after the loss of a loved one. One woman felt her deceased husband had visited her in the night leaving a kiss on her lips. Another spoke of a knock at a door, and her deceased father entered the room, fully clothed, in the flesh. She felt he had returned so she could say a final goodbye to him. I shared my story of a medium’s message of eternal love and gratitude from my beloved Tom.
I found it quite amazing that four women had four stories about miraculous events after the loss of a loved one. We tend to not talk of these things in our society. I believe there are more stories out there. It appears that our loved ones do go on and can send us signs and symbols from eternity. Love lives on.
I opened my eyes, adjusting to the morning light streaming through the crack in the curtains. Byron, my daughter’s dog, had decided to sleep with me last night and once he realized I was awake, he covered my face with kisses in anticipation of a morning walk. He waited patiently while I dressed and we quietly stepped outside onto the back lawn with its cloak of morning dew. Spring flowers were bursting, birds were singing.
Back inside, I started the morning coffee, turned on the computer, and then stuck my head in to see if my daughter and grandson were awake. There they were, in the middle of a morning feed, throwing smiles and kisses my way. Within a few minutes, my daughter brought my little grandson, just nine weeks old, out for morning cuddles while she slept a little longer.
He watched me as I finished my morning writing and emails, those bright Wedgewood Blue eyes not missing a beat. As our gaze caught, his big smile filled my heart.
Maegan woke up and after another bit of visiting, she left for a good long run with the dog along the river trails. My little guy and I had more cuddle and smile time. Holding a little baby in your arms is a precious thing.
When she and the dog returned, a bountiful breakfast and good conversation made for an easy-paced morning. Before I knew it, they had to go to head off for an appointment later in the day.
As I waved goodbye, I said a quiet prayer of gratitude for the love of my daughter, her little guy, and her beloved pet.
I got some computer work finished, notices, letters of thanks, and future appointments and retreated out to the back patio with my book and a warm cup of tea for the rest of the afternoon. The sky was blissfully blue, the birds were still singing, butterflies were dancing and a gentle breeze kept me cool in the warming sun.
Ah . . . this day couldn’t be better. Simple pleasures of shared family love, good food, good conversation, sunshine, spring flowers, butterflies and birds are all I need in my life. At least for this day. This perfect gem of a day.
Gratitude – a deep, heartfelt thank you and appreciation for what you have – can transform your life. It can change despair into hope, fear into love, and sorrow into joy. With gratitude, we realize that it’s less about your life circumstance and more about your attitude to it. Focusing on what you do have rather than what you don’t have, or what you can do, rather than what you can’t do, is the simple secret. It’s a matter of free choice. You decide. No matter how difficult or taxing your situation is, there is always something to be thankful for. And it’s usually the simple, everyday things that mean the most – the roof over your head, the supper before you, the sunshine, the raindrops, the smile of your best friend, or the laughter of your child.
Gratitude, practised daily, brings an unexpected life change. Try it. Close your eyes and focus on the benefits, the good you have in your life. It doesn’t have to be outstanding or unique to be appreciated. It’s often the things we take for granted. Do you have your eyesight? There are those who don’t. Can you breathe freely without assistance or drugs? There are those who can’t. Do you have a home, food, family, or friends? Freedom of speech and movement are basic rights for us in Canada. There are those who are denied these simple human needs or comforts and yet, even they can find something to be thankful for. Perhaps it is their health, their families, or the simple gifts that are there for all of us – clean air to breathe, water to drink, sunshine to warm our bodies and spirits.
Focus on what you have today. Don’t let worries about the future affect your thoughts. Choose what you are thankful for and then say it out loud, or write it down in a daily journal or on slips of paper for a gratitude jar. If you do this every day, you will soon have a host of things. Doing this every day begins to change your world view. Instead of negative thoughts, you become focused on positive thoughts. You begin to feel good about yourself and your life. You begin to look for the benefits of every situation rather than the trouble it brings you. You begin to feel good about others and look to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. You choose daily activities that build you up, give you enjoyment, and add to your life, rather than take it away. This is something we all can do. But we have to practise it every day. Let feeling good about yourself and your life become a habit.
I have a friend who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. At first, all he could think about was the negative effect it would have on his life as he envisioned losing more and more of his taken-for-granted strengths and abilities. He began to fear the future. Bit by bit, he began to realize that he still has many capabilities and circumstances. He owns his own home, his family live close by and want to help in any way they can. He has begun to write his life story. He bought himself an adult-sized three wheel bike. He began to take dance classes. He joined support groups to meet with others who were also facing this life-debilitating disease. He still has much in his life. The last time I spoke to him I was impressed with his calm, inner acceptance of his disease and the enjoyment he has in his everyday life.
A family member has been told his cancer is at a palliative stage and that no more can be done for him to regain his health. He has accepted that, withdrawn from all his drugs except those that relieve difficult pain, and has made the choice to begin to live, rather than just curl up and die. He has been honest and up-front with his family and adult children and still partakes in family activities, weddings and other celebrations while he can. His family have gathered together in love, letting their father know how much he truly means to them. Too often we hear these words of praise at our loved one’s funeral, after they are gone. The children assist their father in any way they can, using their own strengths to help him begin to close his life. This involves selling his cars, reviewing his paperwork, cancelling his subscriptions and memberships, and delivering fresh-made meals on regular visits. He still has much to be thankful for. He still laughs everyday, his loud boisterous one-of-a-kind laugh that is his unique signature sign.
Start practising gratitude in your daily routine. You will be happier. It will enhance your life. It won’t have the power to remove negative conditions and experiences from your life but it does have the power to lift you up and give your life meaning and purpose, in spite of those difficult circumstances. Why not start today? What are you grateful for?
This day, as loved ones around me face loss and grief, I was reminded by Facebook Memories of a video I had posted three years ago, sent to me by my daughter Maegan. It’s about a 96-year old man named Fred Stobaugh, who had lost his wife after 75 years together.
Fred wrote the lyrics for a song about his beloved wife, Lorraine, and Green Shoe Studio helped him bring it to life. The song and video went viral as the world embraced Fred and his love story.
Now there are six videos on You Tube about Fred and his song “Oh Sweet Lorraine.” I am including the first video here. I had time to watch the other five videos and it is a beautiful story about love, and relationships, and the memories we cherish.
In the 4th video, a 7th grade student wrote in a letter to Fred about his song and his life with Lorraine and how it had impacted her. She wrote, “You should treasure what you have as long as you have it, and then treasure the memories you have of it.”
Some things in life we can’t change, we can only accept them, and accept them with deep gratitude and love. The simplest, most basic moments, shared with someone we love become the most valued as precious memories. As I felt with my Tom, it didn’t matter what we did, but that we did it together.