This time of year you’ll often hear people refer to a “Christmas miracle”, usually in jest over some random event that’s easily explained but also just happened to work out for the best, in spite of the odds. Normally for me, just surviving Christmas is the miracle . . . but this year . . . this year was different. I am generally a skeptic by nature, but this year I really did experience that rarest of events—what to me was a true Christmas miracle—and with your indulgence, and my brother-in-law’s permission, I’d like to share my story with you.
Those of you who read this blog on a fairly regular basis may remember me mentioning that my brother-in-law’s wife died in early December. I can’t just say my sister-in-law because if you climb the wrong family tree, that can also mean my brother’s wife. So to avoid confusion, I’ll simply use their names. This particular brother-in-law is Don. His wife’s name is Nancy.
Nancy had battled several serious health issues over the past year or so but the last one was more than her body and her spirit could overcome. She had always been a fighter, one of the sweetest yet strongest women I have ever known, but even that strength could not prevail this time.
I had decided a few weeks earlier to order everyone in my husband’s family a Christmas ornament with his grandmother’s name (Emma Dickson Beckham) and dates of birth and death engraved on it. They were the same type we give to each of the families we serve, and when Nancy died, I ordered one more, one with her name and the appropriate dates. On Christmas day, as the chaos of the gift giving subsided, I passed out the “Miss” Emma ornaments, saving Don’s until last . . . and when I handed him his I told him he got two, and gave him Nancy’s as well. He looked at it for a minute then, realizing what he had, pressed his lips tightly together and took a deep breath.
Later that night, when everyone had departed for their respective abodes, I pulled out my laptop to check the funeral homes’ Facebook page, and Messenger announced that someone was attempting to communicate with me. Clicking on the icon, I found a note from Don, thanking me for Nancy’s ornament. It had come several hours before, but he was still on-line so I responded, telling him how much I had missed Nancy that day. She had occupied my thoughts as I was preparing for everyone’s arrival; I knew she would have commented on how cute the red striped cups were that I had out for coffee or how much the kids had grown or how sorry she was that Malcolm was quarantined with RSV and Kathryne with the flu. The words I will never hear again had echoed in the stillness of the house that morning.
Don and I messaged back and forth for a bit, talking about Nancy and her absence from our lives, then the conversation drew to an end. I closed my laptop and pulled myself up out of the floor where I’d been sitting, but as I got ready to leave the room, what appeared to be a slip of paper caught my eye.
Now before I go any further I should probably explain where exactly I was and how exactly that room is arranged. There is a bedroom off our den and that’s where my laptop lives, perpetually plugged in (so I’ve fried the battery) and ready at a moment’s notice. At the foot of the bed is my great-grandfather’s trunk, piled high with quilts and books and stuffed animals. Beneath the bed are all the usual things most of us are guilty of storing there; in my case, several boxes of I’m not really sure what. So anything that falls behind the trunk to the floor is going to remain upright, wedged between the back of the trunk and the boxes under the bed. And so it was with whatever I was seeing.
I got down on my hands and knees, reaching as far behind the trunk as I could until I grasped the paper. Pulling it out I found that I was holding a plain white envelope. There was no address or postmark on the outside, but it had, at some point, been torn open. Inside was a Christmas card—the one you see in the picture accompanying this story. I opened the card and read the message:
“Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.”
And it was signed “Nancy”.
I stood there . . . looking at the envelope . . . looking at the card . . . trying to wrap my mind around what was happening. Nancy had always mailed us a Christmas card and she always signed just her name, not hers and Don’s. But this card had never been mailed. Evidently it had been hand-delivered, but I had no idea when. Nor did I have a clue how it came to be behind the trunk, how long it might have been there, or why at that very moment, I would see it. And then I smiled.
Now, I don’t know what any of you may be thinking about all of this, but I’ll tell you what I firmly believe. Nancy made sure I found that card. She wanted me to remember that she’s still with us, and what better way to remind me than to send a message from the past during a season she loved—a message from happier times when she was with us in more than spirit? And she knew I’d tell Don. And I’m pretty sure she knew I’d tell the world if he was okay with that—and there was absolutely no hesitation in his voice when I asked his permission.
So, that was my Christmas miracle, a quiet nudging from beyond, meant to offer comfort and reassurance. I happily accepted both and learned some valuable lessons in the process, not the least of which is to always pay attention when some seemingly insignificant object happens to catch my eye.