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December 28, 2011

Love and Light Revisited

Early in the life of this blog, I posted some poignant and penetrating Haiku poetry by poet Helen Schulman. One of those posts took its title from her words: "Light and love sustain."

As we move through the final days of 2011, it seems fitting to return to contemplate these essences, light and love; something that the following poem by Katherine Walker does beautifully. Katherine's most recently published collection of poems is Copper Psalms and Dusty Rainbows. As we approach the next year of our lives, I'll be posting additional poetry by Katherine, whose work, I find, has a welcome combination of gentleness and strength, of realization and affirmation.

Things that mattered so much to us then
things held tightly and dear
those everyday things will not matter at all
in the light of eternity's dawn.

People we voted for — taxes and death—
things we bought and worshiped
feelings of hope that faded to pain
will just be a memory on history's dark page.

Time will be past
these "things" will be gone
shackles all left by the way
For all that we own is this thing we call love
when God's gift of forever unfolds.

Then saints will recall
things must have mattered so much to us then
things we held tightly and dear
but the truth of the matter — its message so clear—
love is the only thing man takes from here...

in the light of eternity's dawn.
Poem, copyright Katherine Walker, all rights reserved.
Photo, Ysabel de la Rosa

To learn more about Katherine's new book, click here.

December 23, 2011

Gentle Christmas Greetings to You and Yours

This beautiful Christmas image was made by my friend, colleague and artistic mentor Catherine Andrako. If you have not visited her blog, it is quite a treat. See: A Thousand Clapping Hands.  With Catherine's permission, I share her Christmas "card" with you and wish you a peaceful and blessed holiday season.  

December 18, 2011

Memories and Celebration

 The following poem by Eileen Hector becomes more enjoyable for me every time I read it. She wrote this poem in honor of her mother who died before she could celebrate the 2000 Christmas with the rest of the family. While very personal to her own family, we can all relate to this poem and its beautiful message: honor the past, celebrate the present, look to the future.

I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah today, which brought back many happy memories. Growing up, it was a family tradition for my sister and me to go with our father to a live performance of this wonderful music every year. Now, when I hear that music I know and love so well, I know that they would be saying what Eileen says in her poem: “You’ve got to celebrate Christmas Day! It’s just not going to go away!”

I hope this delightful poem will remind you of your loved ones and all we have to celebrate, past, present and future.

Grandma's Millennium Christmas

By Eileen Hector

How can we celebrate this season if Grandma is not here?
She made this holiday special, each and every year!
She would wrap the presents early and tuck them all away.
"Christmas is for the children" is what she used to say!

A musical windup, a Christmas tree,
a lighted village for all to see.
 Deck the halls from head to toe! 
Put out the Angels and let it snow! 
We all need to get ready for this Christmas Day!
That is what Grandma would have to say.
Twinkling lights on the rooftop go blink, blink, blink.
Fresh mistletoe over the doorway, a secret little wink.
It's hard to believe in Christmas if Grandma is not here.
But she wants us to get going and deliver some Christmas Cheer!
Everyone put out the green and the red!
Santa is coming with his gift-laden sled.

You've got to celebrate this Christmas day!
It's just not going to go away!

Put up the tree and then hang the star.
Bake holiday goodies and fill the cookie jar!
Sing the songs of Christmas true.
That is what she would want us to do!
Dress up the little ones for midnight Mass.
This Christmas day shall come to pass.

It won't be the same without Grandma here.
How are we supposed to spread holiday cheer?
Keep her memory of Christmas alive.
I think it's the only way for us to survive!
Know that she is with us as we gather here.

Concentrate - You'll see her almost everywhere.

You'll see her blowing kisses from Lily's little lips.
You'll hear her whisper "faster" as Lucas learns to skip.
You'll know she is with us when David comes through the door.
She will tell him not to “hang” his things up on the floor!
We will catch a glimpse of her when Gregory comes to town.
We'll hear her telling him, "I thought your hair was brown."
 We will see her happiness when Michelle becomes a bride.
She'll congratulate Jorden when he finally learns to drive.
 Phaedra with her many bags will learn to travel light.
She will hear her Grandma saying, 
"You don't need all that junk tonight!"
Helen Ann and Susie too often far away,
Will someday think of Grandma and not know what to say.

She'll be at rest knowing Kristina, Sarah, and Nick 
Understand that there are family members you just don't get to pick.
 Nathan with his father, though they grew apart, yet Grandma
 kept each grandchild in a special place within her heart. 

Now we have a Christmas angel to remember us each year.
Look very closely and you will see her near.


All but the last image come from a great blog, Artzee Chris' Cool Clipart
Visit her Cafe Press Store to see some of her original creations. A couple of my favorites are the Punk Rocker Snowman and the Baby Clock.

Poem copyright Eileen Hector, all rights reserved.

December 9, 2011

An Honorable, Helpful Gift

Photo, Ysabel de la Rosa
It's common knowledge that the first holiday  without a family member or friend is indescribably rough. The absence of that person is much larger than any "elephant in the room" could ever be.

As our family approached our first Thanksgiving dinner without our mother, I decided to "confront" her absence. I set her customary place at the table and, instead of a plate, I placed a tall beautiful blue candle there. Its flame gently danced while we ate and conversed.

Since then I've given candles to friends who face a first holiday without a loved one. They've shared with me that the candle served as a kind of anchor for them. The candle represents this earthly life, its structure and solidity, while the flame speaks for spirit. The candle gives light, yet the light is not of the candle, even though, for a while, that candle is the light's home.

Yesterday, one of those friends told me she is including the candle I gave her some years ago in her Christmas decorations. The candle has become a part of her holidays now. It speaks to both the continued absence and memorial presence of her daughter.

I usually give my friends a poem with the candle, to read aloud or silently. And I encourage them to be open with friends and family about lighting the candle for their loved one, inviting others to acknowledge the absence as well as share special memories of that person.  Last year, I placed a photo of my sister next to "her" candle when our remaining family gathered last Christmas Day.

Photo Ysabel de la Rosa
I invite you to adopt a candle and let it shine for your loved one at your holiday table or gathering.  If you have a friend who is facing their first Hanukkah, Christmas or other family gathering without a loved one, the right candle can be a helpful and meaningful gift. for you to do for them. You can find a candle whose colors, composition, and scent have some visual or creative connection with the person who has passed on. You can find wonderful candles that are not expensive. Some of my favorite candle-buying spots are: Pier 1, Big Lots, and Tuesday Morning. Also consider buying a decorative candle holder, which will be permanent, and your friend can continue to place a candle there for years to come.

As for a poem to go with the candle, choose something that is meaningful to you, to your loved one that has passed on, or to the friend to whom you are giving the candle.

With this post, I've included a card I designed to be given with a memorial candle. The image here should have high enough resolution to print, but if you would like a high-resolution PDF file, contact me through this blog or my Website, and I will send it to you.  The card is 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall and includes space at the bottom for you to add a personal note. Please feel free to share this with others as we honor and remember those we love at this special time of year.

Photo by Delectus of iStockPhoto

December 1, 2011

Parting Words that Keep Us Connected

The following essay could as easily be called a prose poem. I draw a great deal of comfort from Noreen's piece. It is wise comfort--comfort purchased, so to speak, comfort well-earned. I hope other readers will draw comfort from it, too. 

Never Say Good-bye
By Noreen Braman

Believing that you never say "good-bye" to someone you intend to see again, generations of Celtic women refused to bid their men farewell or even to watch their retreating figures.

It was a tradition my Irish/Scottish mother believed in wholeheartedly. As children we were constantly reminded to only say “so long” to family and friends. Mom never failed to correct me if I yelled “good-bye” as I was on my way out. It was her way of protecting me.

Mom had good reason to want to guard us from mishap; her own life had been full of illness and tragic loss. The sense of impending doom never left her even after years of peaceful living.

As I grew older, she descended deeper and deeper into an alcoholic haze. Sometimes she would come out of it for a while, get a job or clean the house. On other occasions, she would confide in me some of the terrors she had endured as the child of a drunken, abusive father.

In later years, she seemed to rally, going out and making friends. I was happy for the improvement, yet our relationship was clouded with hostile feelings. But even when our conversations were strained, she never failed to correct me if I told her “good-bye” over the phone.

Years of drinking and a bout with the flu took their toll, Mom died. Dad found her in bed, her hand held to her chin as if she were lost in thought, her eyes staring at some unknown vision. Her frail body looked much older than 56.

The family tried desperately to sort out the emotions. No one had expected Mom to die just like that, not without some warning, some mending of past hurts. We tried to get Dad in for counseling, but couldn't stop the self-destructive binge that brought his own death only four months later.

My sister and I stood in the emergency room, silent and disbelieving. We had arrived too late to see him alive. I wanted to shout at Dad's lifeless body, “How could you let this happen?” I felt abandoned and alone. My parents’ deaths seemed so unfair, leaving my sisters and me to carry around burdens of guilt and unresolved emotion.

But it was in my mother’s old Celtic superstition that I was able to find comfort. Never having had the chance to say “good-bye” felt almost like a blessing as I realized it meant that I would see my parents again. Like the Celtic women of old, I refuse to watch their shadows fade off into the horizon. 

Instead, I close my eyes, picture them in my own version of heaven and say, “So long, Mom and Dad, I'll be seeing you.”

© 1999 Noreen Braman
Noreen Braman is a writer and designer from New Jersey whose work often focuses on her own personal experiences. Her most recent book is Treading Water. More information about her can be found at her Website.