Christmas and Grief: An Anniversary Reaction Time

 

Christmas and Grief: An Anniversary Reaction Time

© Jane Simington, PHD.

 

Anniversary reactions can be times of intense emotional struggle for the bereaved. Anniversary reactions are experienced usually for a number of years following a death. These often occur at times that held a lot of family time and are often associated with ceremony and celebration. Following the death, the bereaved will often feel an incresed sense of loss during such times. Each annivesary makes them more aware of the finality of the relationship they have had.

christmas-and-grief idcaestiranogbhqqoga

Here are some activities I have used and found to be both personally and professionally helpful. While I titled this Christmas and Grief, most of these strategies can be applied any time there is a need to prepare for an anniversary situation. It is well recognized that “preparing for” can alleviate much anxiety. When we are “prepared” we tend to move through the experience with more emotional ease than when we are “caught off guard.”

1) Acknowledge that Christmas is coming and that this may be a difficult time for you and your family.

I find that acknowledging and planning help us get through difficult times. It is when we allow things to simply happen, for example, if we just “float” into Christmas, we can more easily get caught off-guard and become overwhelmed.

2) Avoid being caught up in what you “should” do, wasting a lot of time and energy on feeling obligated.

Instead, decide what it is you really want to do and then place your energy into planning for that, by making a list. Letting others know and perhaps even asking for help to ensure that what you want to take place does indeed happen. If you do not plan ahead it will likely not happen.

3) Remember there are no right and/or wrong ways to celebrate Christmas.

There are many lovely restaurants that now offer a beautiful meal. Some even have soft music, gentle songs and harp playing on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They are becoming so popular you must make sure to have a reservation. A week at the Ocean, relaxing in the sun at an all-inclusive resort may be better than any amount of grief therapy you could receive this season. What about a ski weekend? One older woman decided to spend her first Christmas alone serving meals at a community kitchen for the homeless. She told me it was one of her most fulfilling experiences. Could someone else do the cooking this year? Is it essential to have a turkey dinner? Would a roast of beef work as well? Can you serve buffet style instead of a sit-down dinner?

4) It is okay to create new traditions

After my son’s death, I found it important to acknowledge that Christmas would never be the same for my family. Once I acknowledged that, I was able to make the decision to do my best to make the season and the day as good as possible. And from then on, even though it was not “great,” it was “okay.” Making that decision freed me up to make the choices that were right for me and my family. Part of making those choices involved creating new traditions.

Remember, all traditions started by someone changing the order of the way things were done. If you don’t like what you do this year than you can change it again next year. You may try hanging a new ornament in memory of your loved one who has died. Donate money to a favorite charity using the amount of money you would have spent on your loved one’s Christmas gift. Create a collage of favorite past Christmas pictures and honor the good times had. Decorate your loved one’s picture frame in a beautiful Christmas motif. Place a plant on the gravesite, or donate a plant to be placed on the altar in your church.

5) Honor your feelings and let others know you will need to do so.

When you accept an invitation, it may be important to tell your host and hostess that this is a difficult time of year for you and that you may only be able to stay a short time. Then allow yourself to leave when you need to.

6) Spend your time only with friends and family who can support you.

You do not have the energy right now to pretend. Be with those who are comfortable with your need to cry and to sometimes be withdrawn and alone. Be with friends who are comfortable when you talk about your loved one. Friendships change during grief, as do family relationships.

7) Spending money on yourself and looking nice does not dishonor the one who has died.

Buying a new outfit, wearing makeup or jewelry, and spending money on a massage, manicure or pedicure or even on travel are all excellent self-care strategies. These in no way indicate you are not grieving, nor do they say you do not treasure the one who has died. They do say you are trying to move through this difficult process in the best way possible.

8) Honor your true feelings

Cry when you feel sad and lonely and also allow moments of joy to creep in. It is okay to smile again. It is even okay to have a laugh or two.

9) Take good care of your physical self

Eat nutritionally; get some physical exercise. Limit alcohol intake. While it can initially make you feel relaxed, it can quickly depress and make your feelings erupt out of control. It is also easy to make it a habit of “drowning” sorrows. Limit caffeine intake; it can interferes with the sleep, so needed during times of grief.

10) Find beauty in the season

Let the sights and sounds and smells of the season enter your empty spaces. While this will not evaporate your grief, it is a step forward – and that is what grief recovery is all about…one small step at a time.

11) Go for a winter stroll.

Spending time in nature is a very healing strategy. Nature helps us remember the cycle of life and death and by doing so brings new hope and promise into our lives. Many find nature to be the greatest healer. It was for me, personally. Beginning a “walking out of doors program,” was the best thing I did for myself. I can now honestly say “I walked my grief away.”

12) Give yourself permission to add some peace-filled moments to this Blue Christmas

This particular Christmas will be a part of your life story. Make a conscious effort to include deeds and celebration aspects that, when shared years from now with others who are grieving, you will be able to say “This really worked for me. In doing so, you will add some light to their darkness.

Simington, J. Christmas and Grief: An Anniversary Reaction Time. Taking Flight Books. Edmonton, Alberta.

A Garden Metaphor: Resolving Guilt and Regret

©Jane A. Simington, August 2014

 

For years now, my garden has been a great teacher. I treasure the soulful prompting I receive daily in witnessing the seasonal changes of growth and decline. Today I ruminate on how fruitful some early spring decisions and planting choices have been, and on how underproductive others were. Why did some not turn out as planned? Was the planting time wrong; the location wrong? What can I do now to altar those early choices? What will I do differently next time?

Jane's Garden

Looking back at the choices and decision we have made at an earlier point in life can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt and regret. Guilt and regret are the emotional expressions of the spiritual need for self-forgiveness. Guilt is an expression of things done we wish we had not done. Regret is an expression of things not done we know we should have. These emotions are often articulated in phrases such as “If only…” and “I wish I had…”

 If you are holding guilt or regret over a past event here is a four-part process I find to be both helpful and healing.

1)    Place yourself right back in the event over which you are experiencing guilt or regret. See yourself and your circumstances exactly as they were then. Now ponder; “If I were right back there under those same circumstances and in that same time and place, would I make the same decision?” We often judge yesterday based on the knowledge and experience of where we are at today. When you place yourself right back in the circumstances of the time when you made the choices over which you now hold guilt or regret, you will be more capable of seeing and experiencing that situation as you saw it then.

2)    Following the examination of those past circumstances and the conclusions about the choices you made, take a few more moments and ponder how that event and the action you took, changed the course of your life. To do this, I encourage you to use a circular form of questioning. A circular form of questioning is to simply repeat the same question over and over after each answer. In your case, now that you have examined the details of the event and the actions you took, please ponder…“and then what happened?” When you find the answer, ask again…“and then what happened?” When you find that answer, ask the same question. Repeat this question and answer process until you are able to see how the choices you made at that time changed the course of your life. Then spend some moments pondering this question: “Did my actions at the time of that event result in some positive outcomes?

3)    List at least three things you learned from making those particular choices. Now conclude what is the greatest lesson you learned from taking the action you took. Reflect on these and then journal in detail your responses. There is great value in taking the time to externalize in written form the thoughts and ideas that are free-floating in your mind. Writing them down rather that just thinking about them will make the process more concrete and real, thus adding to the healing benefits of this exercise.

4)    To conclude this therapeutic activity, memorize and use frequently this affirmation. “I have grown and changed since those days. I made the choices then that were right for me. If I am ever again in a similar circumstance, I will make different decisions because I can now make choices that are right for me at this time in my life.”

Has the above therapeutic exercise to release guilt and regret made you more compassionate with yourself? Self-forgiveness is an exercise in compassion. Self-forgiveness is an exercise in freedom. As the past is released, space becomes available for the planting of seeds in groundrich and ready to support new life and growth.

 

Summer Fire Ceremonies Heal and Transform

Jane A. Simington PHD (2014)

      What is it about the camp fire that mesmerizes? What is stirred within? What dormant memories are awakened?
      Fire on most of the great Medicine Wheels of the world is the element associated with the South. Sacred teachings connected with the South are about summer; about growth and productivity. These reflections from nature, the sun-filled days and the long evenings of summer sunlight, are metaphoric reminders that the energies of summer also provide us wih opportunities for growth in productive and fruitful ways.
     TRC fire ceremony 013

 

The Hawaiian Goddess Pele is a summertime Goddess. As the Volcano Goddess, Pele prompts us to recall the power of the fire within us and how it can sometimes take a major eruption before our fire can burst forth in all its fullness. As a Fire Goddess, Pele reminds us that the ashes from fire eruptions create new soil, fertile for new growth.
      Ancient teachings such as those of the Medicine Wheel and of Goddess lore remind us that the fire energy that penetrates all living things, even the burning core deep within the earth, also burns within us . We are a part of the Life Force of the Creator and of all that has been created.
     And yet, as William James noted, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.”1
     The long evenings of summertime offer many opportunities for gatherings around a fire. Campfires can, with a few minor adjustments, be used as ceremonial fires for healing and transformational purposes. During Fire ceremonies the Spirit of the Fire is called upon to burn away that which is no longer providing the rich fuel needed to turn our glowing embers into full blown flames.
     When I conduct a Fire Ceremony, I begin by having each participant write a letter to the Fire Spirit naming the things they are requesting to be burned away. As the fire is lit, an offering of tobacco or other medicine considered sacred by the group members is offered. Members of the group are then invited to hang a colored ribbon in a nearby tree in each of the directions. A red ribbon is hung in the South to represent fire. As this ribbon is hung we pray that the fire burns away what is no longer of growth potential. Next, a blue ribbon is hung in the West. As the blue ribbon is hung we pray for healing, since the West on most Medicine Wheels represents the place of healing. A white ribbon is then placed in the North and as it is hung we pray for strength and endurance. A yellow ribbon is used to represents the East. As the yellow ribbon is hung we pray that the element of air, which correlates with the East, blows newness into our lives.
     Following the hanging of the colored ribbons, to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of rattles, one by one we approach the fire, offering our letters. As the papers burn and the smoke ascends, we pray that our Creator take from us what is no longer working and in exchange provide us with what we need to support our new growth in the most successful and abundant ways
     Each time I conclude a fire ceremony I am reminded of the words of De Chardin. “Someday when we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. 2

References
1). James, W. (1958). Varieties of Religious Experiences. NY: New American Library.

2). De Chardin, P. T. (1984) On Love and Happiness. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Fathering Continues Beyond the Grave

©Jane A. Simington, PHD, 2014

My last visit with my Father began three days before his passing. I had known him as a man of few words, so the intensity and depth of the conversation we shared about the life we spent together marked me indelibly. He emphasized that he wished he “had been able to do more [for me],” “to give [me] more.”

My simple response, “Daddy, you gave me life; you gave me my education. I could ask for nothing more,” affirmed the roles that he played in my life. I left my father’s room that evening believing I would never again converse with him, or receive his help or guidance. My first realization that this assumption was not true occurred just days after his death.

Because of the time spent with him during his dying, and the time I spent with my mother following his funeral, I had limited opportunity to fulfill my role as a choir director. I spoke to my Father about this dilemma and asked that somehow he offer assistance. To my relief and delight, the choir’s performance that Easter Sunday morning was outstanding, and during most of it, I could distinctly sense his presence.

Awareness that my Father’s assistance continued beyond his grave became increasingly real during my Mother’s final illness. My instinctive response to the news of my Mother’s passing was to seek solace at the water’s edge. Upon arrival there my attention was immediately drawn to the magnificence unfolding before me. Mesmerized, I gazed as a large white bird elegantly lifted from the water, to be followed by another of its kind. In a splendorous display of graceful ease the pair ascended upward and eastward until they were gently immersed in the golden radiance of the morning sunrise. Stillness followed, and in its glow, awareness. The powerful symbolism revealed in those extraordinary moments imprinted upon my soul a knowing that a sacred union was unfolding in front of me. My Father had come to accompany my Mother and guide her journey homeward.

The night my Mother died I was privileged in a dream to witness my Father walking toward her. Both were dressed for travel. My parents entered a large, gothic-style building and moved forward to the far end of it where together they entered a tunnel-like opening. Although I did not witness any vehicle of travel, I knew they were leaving via some mode of transportation that would take them on to the next phase of their journey together.

In the years since my Mother’s death, my Father has, on numerous occasions, especially during times of distress, shown me that his presence and support continues. Just recently, during a time when I was unconscious and near death, my Father again arrived. This time he carried me across a bridge and placed me back into a bed in the intensive care unit where I was being treated.

As I recall these visitations from my Father since his death, I am reminded of the words inscribed on one of the stones that make up a small stone circle in the courtyard of St. Mary’s Church, in Rydal, England – a little stone structure William Wordsworth had been instrumental in building.

What is it to cease to breathing

But to free the breath from its restless tides

That it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered.

 Standing stone

Before I Was Your Mother

Before I was your mother,

I was a girl,

who had no idea of anything

outside of pain and sorrow,

a girl who did not know

how to be a girl.

Before I was your mother,

I was a girl

beaten for not being

what my mother

wanted in a girl.

Before I was your mother,

I was a woman

beaten

for not being what

a man wanted in a wife,

Before I was a mother,

I was lost for so very long,

Before I was your mother

I was a woman

who did not know

how to be a woman.

When I became a mother,

in your eyes

I was not a woman,

I was a role

needed to be played.

Before I was a mother

I did not know

what being a mother was

I tried on many different things.

While being your mother

I was condemned

For not being the woman

my parents wanted me to be

while being your mother

I struggled

to be a girl,

to be a woman.

I struggled to be.

You struggled against

my becoming a woman,

you struggled against

my becoming a girl.

You struggled against my love,

punishing me for not being

what you wanted me to be

as your mother.

I struggled against my love too,

I was never me.

When I became your mother

I was beaten with words, with anger,

With rejection for not being

What a child wanted

in a mother,

together we created

an unhealthy way

of treating each other,

a pattern that did us

more harm than good.

Patterns designed to destroy

all we were working for

I fought to keep us together

This almost destroyed us

In becoming a woman

I stood up

to the girl, the woman

in you

and said no more.

That hurt you,

it was not intended to cause harm,

it was intended to break

the hurtful pattern

we were in.

Before I was your mother,

I was no body,

being your mother

gave me purpose,

a place to start.

We all need a place to start

Taking the time to find

Our place gives us

The opportunity to

Heal.

Stories from the Goddess’s Circle of Life

We thank Alexis Drewicki for this contribution. Please visit her website www.theworldoftheluck.com to view more of her work.

STORIES FROM THE GODDESS’S CIRCLE OF LIFE

Once lost, there was an eternity of mourning before she again experienced the resurrection of her spirit and her strengths. “Never again will I hold my tongue!” The words echo in her breast, the silvered spear of the goddess, and the golden shield of protection materialize in her hands. The white jaguar and panther instantly appear beside her. She strokes their heads, flings her thick golden braid over her shoulder and stalks into the jungle with long and steady strides. She is once again the goddess, ready to do battle for all those who tremble in the winds blowing across landscapes that waver and change in the hands of men. You cannot see that goddess when you look upon her face and as she walks the streets of the urban landscape. The goddess that wages war for those in need of her strengths resides within this simple, yet complex vessel called woman. You hear her in the words she puts upon pages, see her in the dance that is not a dance to the beat of primitive music that only she hears, and experience her in the loving she gives with every beat of her heart.

A Night to Remember

Last night the circle of life was completed on this plane for three young people. How the other two survived was by the will of some power greater than themselves. The lives of a young man and woman have been changed completely in the space of a moment.

It was a party night and they were headed for the bright lights of a nearby city with anticipation of fun, laughter and a few more drinks shared between friends. It ended before it had even begun. They were less than a few miles from home when a moment’s inattention, for whatever reason, brought tragedy to the two survivors and all of their families. I sense that three young spirits are out there wandering on that highway wondering what has happened, although I fervently pray I’m wrong.

The young woman that survived is 18 years old and during the hours that I spent with her, continually asked that I keep her awake. She was terrified that if she closed her eyes to sleep, she would never wake again. “Don’t let me die.” she asked over and over. It’s the kind of a story you don’t like to share. There seems no sense in bringing the images to life in the eyes of anyone else. Your images are more than enough for you to handle – never mind those of the families involved. They lined the halls, waiting for news. Pain and tears were etched on every face. Under normal circumstances, I would have stopped and tried to offer comfort, but I was too busy running to do more than touch the odd shoulder in passing. It was enough. They didn’t want my comfort. They wanted my expertise and that of all of us who happened to be on duty last night. Stabilize the patient, do the tests and send her to the place that has more specialized expertise to offer. We gave all that we had to give, and then reached for just that little bit more.

Small town nurses and doctors don’t have the luxury of remaining uninvolved. These are our friends and our neighbors, and in this case, one of us, who is involved. The daughter of a co-worker and friend died in that crash last night. It’s personal – that fight to preserve the lives of the still living. Our hearts are as involved as our professionalism. It’s a difficult bridge to walk.

When it was time for her to go to the larger center nearby, we found ourselves in a position of not having ambulance personnel with the necessary qualifications to deal with the extent of her injuries. In cases like this, that seem to occur far too often, we send a nurse along for the “what ifs” that may occur. Tonight, being the most experienced nurse, and the least likely to panic if such an event were to occur, that became my function – a sterile term, but it will do. The young lady in question required a calming influence and a familiar face as none of her family was able to accompany us.

During the initial few miles of the journey she asked where we were on the road every few seconds. She even went so far as to ask what had happened to the rest of her friends. She took a long look into my eyes and then said “No, I’ll wait until morning. I’ll be able to deal with it then when I’m feeling better.” She knew they had died without my saying a word and probably had all along, though she wasn’t ready to accept the finality of that few seconds of inattention to the road.

We reached the scene of the accident, and she knew instinctively where we were. When I verified the location, she turned her eyes to the roof of the ambulance and said “I love you guys”. She grew quiet and stopped asking where we were. The pain intensified after that. Every bump in the road, each slowing and swaying of the ambulance brought cries and whimpers that reminded me of a similar trip I myself had taken many years ago. You don’t forget that kind of pain. It’s ingrained into the very cells of your body. The pain began to take over her mind and was all that she could focus on. She complained that her feet were cold and wanted to move them.

I moved to the foot of the stretcher and took one of her feet in my hands, gently rubbing it and connecting in a way I can’t explain. Words quietly flowed and we journeyed into the new life she was about to create for herself. She was unhappy with the career choice she had made so we recreated it as we travelled to one in which she received the joy and satisfaction she craved. It was a “helping” profession, so we went there. She began to calm. We moved on to the man she would share her life with and she could see his eyes filled with love as she walked up an aisle towards him. The eyes were all she could see, but it was enough. We spoke of the children she would have and the burning question was spoken by her lips for the first time. “Will I still be able to have children?” The answer was “Yes”, and she calmed once again. I moved my attention to her other foot. She breathed through the pain and we spoke of those children she would have – there were four of them. She told us their genders and the order in which they would come. She had a name chosen for one, her first girl, and the name honored her grandmother and mother. We spoke of what she would teach them as they grew and the happiness that would come in this future life. We even spoke of the lessons she had learned tonight and in what manner it was going to change her direction in life. The young man accompanying us in the back of that ambulance listened as we made this little journey into the future, grasped quickly what was occurring and brought her to her wedding day. His vision was not hers, so she shared her dream of that day with us. And thus we made our journey, her mind and the visions she created transcending the physical pain she was experiencing. The meeting place was met, and care transferred to another, more experienced and qualified ambulance crew. My job was done and I walked outside, felt the falling snow wet my hair and face, creating the tears I had not been allowed for the past several hours. I spent that time reconnecting with my own special friends and felt their healing powers remove the debris from my own soul.

That young woman, no longer a child after tonight, knows her life had been unalterably changed; she knows that there had been helping hands at the scene of the accident and thanked her God for the continuing life she had been granted. What had been a tragedy gradually became a gift in her mind and she pulled it to her with a strength and intensity that was awe-inspiring to see in such a young woman. She has faced a traumatizing event with a strength often not seen in people much older than herself. She has grown so much within such a short period of time. The small child still within her will resurface many times over the next few months as she recuperates. She has shown the strength of spirit that will allow her to move beyond the pain and sorrow. She may require some additional help along the way for a little while as she continues to grow and connect with that Force and that Power that saved her for greater things.

It was time to return to the place it had all began for me and we arrive shortly before 3 a.m. I had been back only a few minutes when the phone rang. It was the mother who had lost one son and been spared the loss of the second. He had been cleared of any life threatening injuries but was experiencing pain and difficulty breathing. They were, understandably, frightened and worried. I gave her some suggestions for pain control and told her to bring him in if there was any doubt as to his safety in her mind. He arrived an hour later.

Examination showed nothing untoward, so we began to talk. I reassured him that his girl friend was going to be all right and would survive. And then I did what I do so often. Eye to eye, and soul to soul, we began to truly communicate. I told him what I was doing in the locking of the gaze and why. I taught him about the hemispheres of the brain, the power of the breath and gave him some tools to work through his grief and the trauma he had experienced this night. We talked about the gift of life he had also been granted. He spoke of the faith of that young woman I had spent so much time with in recent hours. I asked, and he answered the question that would most likely change his life as well. For the first time he could remember, he had experienced that closeness of One far greater than himself. We talked about purpose, good coming out of tragedy. I taught him breathing exercises, told him the physiological advantages of such exercises, the flow of oxygen increasing and permeating traumatized cells, the connection it allows between our souls and that which is beyond us.

As we talked, he began to calm and breathe more easily. His eyes lost the desolate look within them and hope began to arise – for now at least. As I sensed his calming, I became aware that his mother was also listening to each word we spoke. I had forgotten her presence and the fact that she had lost another son this night. I know that on some level, in connecting in such a way with her surviving son, I had also connected with her. All I can pray is that those powers that guided me through this night will help them through this painful journey they are making. I will never be able to imagine the strength with which she met the needs of one son in the midst of such despair that must have been echoing within her own soul.

As I came home this morning, I thought of those three young people that had not survived. I wondered if they were still out there wandering, lost and alone and said a little prayer for each of them. I thought of the families I knew and how the entire community would be affected with the ripple effects in such a small populace. No one would be exempt from the pain and suffering of this night. I thought of the woman I worked with; her eldest daughter gone from this life and the suffering and pain she had already experienced over the past year. I pray for her. Life was difficult enough before tonight. In spite of it all though, I focus on the strength of those two young people that survived and the hopes that they now have for the future. It is all we can ask for today.

My Christmas Miracle

Thank you to Author: Mj LeBlanc, for the submission

Adversity is something we all have had we experience many opportunities in life to venture across adversities path, though not many of us see this as an opportunity. I struggle to see all adversity as an opportunity moment by moment. I also struggle to see that adversity is one of my greatest teachers; it is by seeing it as an opportunity I am able to step out of the chaos from time to time and see a bigger picture.

I have claimed to be a very private person, yet am open and willing to share of myself to all. That in itself is juxtaposing, which can be very confusing to me, let alone those who hear me say it. The private part is I have never sought fame and fortune for my ability to tap into resources in a way some cannot. I am no one special, and feel that when I am placed in a position above all others, I am crossing a boundary. I like to be unknown, yet the very source of who I am drives me out of this need to remain secluded.

Sharing of oneself is a gift that can never have a price put on it, it is not about fame or fortune, and it is about loving and seeing all as humans alike. Sharing can help many others in ways we may never know, it has never been my intention to make more out of my life than what it was.

Coming from parents who had nothing to offer in any way, because life had beaten it out of them, I married a man similar to my parents. Neither of us had any education with no real promise of anything more for our children. When I decided to leave my marriage, it cost me what little sanity I did have and took a few years to actually get away safely with my children.

My experiences up to this point had left me with little faith in humanity and zero trust for anyone other than myself, thus segregating me from my family.

I had not believed I would get away from my marriage safely, so when I did, I was ecstatic about the events. When the first Christmas alone with my three small children came, it was both a joyous and fearful event. Complaining was not an option, I had them, and we were beginning new traditions, and I had more than I had ever dreamed of.
Dreaming was not something I had ever given credence to, my life was too real to waist a moment of it in dream world.

Watching all the fuss on the television and in the stores saddened me, the level of our financial situation did not allow for the material pleasures of the season, yet I chose not to share this, being a high crisis time in our lives, having moved 3 times in the past year to obtain some security, the last thing I wanted was sympathetic onlookers. My children were 6, 5 and 3. I longed for them to believe in something more than I had ever believed in. I wanted the myth for us all, we had no tree, and when they asked about it, I would exclaim we are starting a new tradition; we will put it up on Christmas Eve! I had inquired at the local tree lot, as to what they did with the left over trees. They said they close at 7:00pm Christmas Eve and throw the left over trees out. I asked if I came at closing time, if I could have one they were going to throw out.

So I busied the kids with making decorations out of paper, wool and glue, along with what ever we could find. Christmas day we would celebrate being together and being safe, the children did not have memories of getting much at this time of the year. Their past two Christmases had been violent and horrifying, being safe would be enough of a reason to celebrate.

While sitting in the living room watching a special on TV with Ronnie, I was enjoying her ability to get lost in the story, wishing I could do the same, when she began to sing the carols as they played on TV. I realized I had felt sad for her, her sister and brother, for not having more. I wished to give them all the myth of Christmas in its entirety, I thought it would be the greatest gift of all; my tears flowed freely in the impossibility of this wish.

The music on the TV got louder, she turned to me, beaming with a questioning look, we had a TV that you had to physically get up and go over to, to turn up the volume. Then there was a knock at our front door, panic filled me, the music got louder, yet there was a commercial on the TV. Ronnie ran to the window, as I looked out the peep hole, fear subsided, awe consumed me as I slowly opened the door.

In my front yard and on my steps were upwards of thirty people singing Christmas Carols. Frozen in one spot, unable to speak, they continued singing as they began to enter my home, carrying boxes of gifts, food, a small potted tree decorated nicely.

Tears showered my face as they placed gifts around it, while others brought in more boxes, filled with a turkey and all the fixings, then they handed me a 250.00 money order. In moments they were all gone, leaving me speechless, watching them walk down the street singing and laughing.

I questioned if I was in a dream, who were these people, how they knew about us, I had sent no request, had no friends or family, still to this day I don’t know for sure who they were, who organized this great miracle.

There had been over thirty angels bearing gifts of music, laughter, tears, love and joy, helping a young single mom believe in human kindness, showing me, teaching me to believe in life, in true kindness.

This night changed everything for me, I began to take steps towards living like these angels, working to educate myself and my children so that I could one day give back, creating a willingness in my children to do the same. That night fed my soul for many long trying years to come; it changed the direction of my life and the lives of my children. It created in me a hunger for learning, for living, for giving back that had never died.

We are educated now, and give back when ever and how ever we can. Thank you to all the angels out there who think that the little things that you might have done is not enough, may you always know within, you are giving more than you will ever know.

Having the opportunity now to volunteer for Santa’s Anonymous I see constantly the giving nature of humans, the willingness to be part of something bigger than just their own lives. I see the tears in the many parents’ eyes as they truly appreciate all that the many angels of our community do. I see the full circle of my life and am extremely grateful for all that I have lived, for all that has been done for me and my children. For all of us are gifts to our community, we all have our own set of wings, so why not put them on.