The magic of Christmas

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Christmas, for me, doesn’t feel as magical as it used to when my parents were still alive.  My dad was the biggest kid of all and he would happily stroll through malls that were bulging at the seams with shoppers trying to find that perfect gift. He would also be on the phone at 6:00 am on Christmas morning, pulling us from our slumber to make sure we were up and ready to come over to open presents.  The Beach Boys Christmas album would be blaring in the background, as it was each Christmas morning, and he would impatiently pace around the overflowing tree until we arrived.

My mother would embrace her inner elf and make their house look like Santa’s workshop had overflowed into every room and the smell of fresh-baked cookies and other goodies always filled the air.  The dining room table, that was once filled with tins of cookies she had made for many of the local businesses, would be set to perfection with all of the festive tablecloths, napkins and candles.

Perhaps some of my Christmas spirit was taken when they left.  Maybe it also has to do with the fact that I don’t have kids of my own and my nephews are now teenagers, so the urge to feel elvish is lower on the register.  But over the last couple of years, I have been finding much more of my Christmas spirit through the annual toy drive I have run every year for the last five years.

With a stuffed Rudolph safely tucked onto my dashboard so his red nose could lead the way, we drove two cars full of toys to the Food Bank today and were able to be there to help some of the families find the perfect gifts to give to their kids on Christmas morning.  To say I am now bursting with Christmas spirit is a gross understatement.  It was so heart-warming being able to stay and see the smiles as parents got to pick out the toys they knew their kids would love.

The spirit of giving is truly what the holiday is about.  And since I have just been injected with an overdose of that spirit, I think it’s time to go home, turn the tree lights on and crank some carols by the Beach Boys.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The fork in the road

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Everyone is given choices.  For the naysayers that exude denial and say they didn’t have a choice…..they are lying.  Everyone has a choice and sometimes choosing not to make a choice is their choice.

Although choices should be made carefully and given ample thought, they are available for everyone to make.  Many factors should be balanced before you make a choice but ultimately the decision-making comes down to a rational mind with an understanding of the potential conclusions.

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The fork in the road is put there for a specific purpose.  It is a deciding moment that you are able to pause and weigh your options.  Each fork will bring an alternate result and it is that pause that you are given that will help you make the choice that is best for you.  Choices should not be made on a whim because the trickle down effect could cause more people to be affected by your decision.  Take that gift seriously.   If the choice you are making could be detrimental to you or to someone else it is worth putting in a solid effort to weigh the pros and cons before you give your final answer.

Inevitably we will all make some bad choices along the way, but there is always that promise of redemption by making a better choice the next time.  And ultimately choosing to make the better choice is afforded to us by making a choice in the first place.

Put faith in your ability to make that choice wisely and choose to live with its consequences.  At least you will have the benefit of knowing you made the effort and if it wasn’t the right choice, you will get the chance to re-think your next path at that next fork in the road.

They thought they had more time

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I arrived at the church fifteen minutes before the service began and I was ushered into one of the last remaining seats at the back of the church.  The room was full and buzzing with conversation.  At the front of the church was a large picture of the man for whom we had all come to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

There were several familiar faces and many I did not know.  Some carried on animated exchanges while others sat and prepared for the tears they knew were coming.  The church fell silent and we all rose to greet his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his extended family.

During the service, his children got up to share their memories of their dad and through broken, emotion-soaked voices they gave us another look into the man we all knew and greatly respected.  Before they even spoke, I saw the pain in their faces.  That same pain had been etched into my skin years ago when I lost my parents, my dad in 2006 and my mom, more recently, in 2014.  It is a pain not easily described to those who have not lost a parent.

Although both of my parents were ill leading up to their passing, they both left before I had a chance to say I love you once more because we thought we had more time.  This poor family thought they had much more time but their dad died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.  I sat through the service with dry eyes, because to have cried one tear would have opened floodgates that may not have closed.

I sit now writing this post through the tears that I could not shed on Saturday for fear they would not stop.  I think of all the lives he changed for the better.  I think of his countless hours spent doing things for those less fortunate.  I think of the legacy he left behind for us to follow.  And I think of his children who thought they had more time with their dad but never had the chance to tell him “I love you” just one more time.

As someone so astutely pointed out to me on Saturday, we are all given numbers and we never know when ours will be called.  Love deeply, laugh abundantly, share your good fortune with those who go without and don’t ever take for granted the moments to tell the people in your life how you feel about them.  You never know when their, or your, number will be called.

 

 

Energy never dies, it simply changes

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“As long as there is one person on Earth who remembers you, it isn’t over.” ~ Oscar Hammerstein, Carousel

~

I speak aloud to them and their faces later hover in my dreams,

those gone before me.

Perhaps it was their time.

Maybe they were taken before I was ready for them to be gone.

They leave a void on my plane of reality,

a chasm of memories that I jump into during random moments.

I bathe in the forgotten sound of their laughter,

I warm to the memory of their embrace.

But their energy never dies.

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They yearn for me to engage them.

They delight in the moments that I recall our past together.

I keep their memory alive with every thought of them,

each recollection of their journey with me.

If I take that moment to remember,

to seek what I saw in them in the physical world,

I give those reflections a new vitality.

When I look into the darkness,

I see beyond the black veil of loss.

I see the light they brought to my life.

The case that once held those beautiful spirits may be gone,

but the mark they left on my soul never leaves me.

They remain in my heart for as long as I am alive.

Each time I look into the stars,

I know they are looking back at me.

Their energy never dies.

~

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History really is about his story

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Remembrance Day has always been a day when I truly do honor the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for our freedom.  Every year, I watch the ceremony in Ottawa and, every year, I am moved to tears watching the emotion on the faces of the people in the crowd.

My latest interview for the library project I am helping with was nothing short of eye-opening and made the emotions I feel on Remembrance Day seem insignificant.  Charlie was born in 1925.   After graduating high school, his career focus was on the Navy.  It wasn’t until he talked with his teacher that he decided to become a soldier in the army.  After going through basic training, being sent for further training in Nova Scotia and finally turning 19, Charlie found himself being sent to Europe in November of 1944.

Now, at the age of 92, he skillfully walked me through his journey from Canada to England and then to Italy.  He joined the 48th Highlanders and they moved on to Pisa, where he remembered the leaning tower.  From there they were transferred to Marseilles and then took a truck to Belgium.  They crossed the Rhine into Germany into an area that had already been cleared and his troop eventually ended up in Apeldoorn, Holland.

By mid-morning on April 17th, 1945, the Highlanders had secured the north-western section, the Hastings were on the grounds of Het Loo Palace and the Royal Canadian Regiment was in the town square. The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade took over the south-western perimeter of the town before noon.  Charlie was on the front lines when Holland was liberated.

It was remarkable watching him become so emotional when he told me how his unit was given the news on September 2nd, 1945 that the war was finally over.   It was 72 years later and, if I could describe the look in his eye, he was right back on that street when he first heard the news, standing in his uniform pants and a t-shirt.

History really is about his story and so many other stories.  And next year on Remembrance Day, I will remember Charlie and the countless others who sacrificed their freedom to defend others.