Thursday, January 29, 2015

Christmas in January

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I wrote a  little 'story' about a card which I didn't receive this past Christmas.

The words came straight from my heart and onto the page without editing. They were words to honor my uncle who has made a huge impact in my life and the life of so many others.

This story was shared among family and my cousin read my words to my uncle. I was touched that my words hit a chord that resonated among many.

My uncle told me my cousin had a hard time reading the words because of their emotional impact. I told him that is because they were a truth that she felt and recognized. Words that touch one's heart are hard ones to read out loud.

I haven't spoken to my uncle since Christmas. I wrote him a letter and passed along my greetings through family who have been able to go out and visit with him.

He has been busy recovering and spending time with family. That is harder than it sounds, but it seems like he is making slow and steady headway and he is on the hard road back to us.

Yesterday morning, I opened my mailbox and I found a handwritten letter to me inside. I didn't recognize the writing on the envelope but I recognized the return address. The letter was from my uncle. And it was a fat one!

He started writing to me on December 28th. He continued on January 14th, 15th and the 21st before he sealed it up and sent it on its way to me.

His words were a gift.

From a sunset he described which reminded him of a similar sunset my dad once told him about on their family farm growing up ... to remembering Dad's hair and eye color ... to his kind and grateful words as he started several of his messages in response to some of my letters or cards ... to his absolute Pride and Joy (he capitalized those words, not me) as he described the book of family memories, he helped me assemble. "I've spent hours up and down halls flogging your book. Much interest..."

I raked myself over the coals time and time again as I berated myself for taking so long assembling those memories. Yet, as I listen to the way my uncle has flaunted our book (he even has stories about telling his cleaning lady about The Book), I couldn't be more pleased that this book found its way into my uncles hands at a time where he needed something firm and tangible to hold onto.

Roots. They ground us in unfathomable ways.

Find what grounds you within your life. For one never knows when your 'root system' may be compromised.

Dig deep and hold on tightly as you weather life's storms.

My uncle seems to be coming through the other side of this latest hurricane. His world has been upended but to hear him dreaming of rebuilding his life in bright and shiny new ways makes me think 'he has his eye on the prize' and he will get beyond the point he is at and out pursue some of those dreams.

Dream big. Make the impossible possible. Look up. Try to look beyond the moment you are in. If you are in a deep, dark place, it is hard. I know. It feels impossible. Maybe it is. But only for the moment. Feel it. Let it wash over you. Don't deny the power of the eye of that hurricane. But trust the storm will pass.

From my own personal experience (in my world of fairy tale endings), the storm does pass. It may leave devastation in its wake but out of the devastation comes opportunity. Opportunity to cull the clutter of one's life. Opportunity to start over and rebuild. A clarity of seeing what is truly important in times of crisis. Out of the need to lean on and rely on others, you learn faith. Faith that stems from finding strength and support in the most unlikely of places.

My uncle has spoken fondly of many of the people he has met over the course of the past three months. "One of my many favorite people here ..."; "My new friend ..." Yet he is feeling like he is wearing out his welcome and admits he is a bit antsy about moving on.

My uncle, who has been admired and revered among family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for the entirety of his life found an oasis within his 'refuge from the storm'. A safe and supportive place where he has been allowed the freedom to 'fall'.

He has been caught in the arms of strangers as they guiding him through and past some of the toughest days he has known.

Yes, family has been waiting in the wings, supporting, cheering him on all along the way. But there are times when one must rely on powers greater than the love and support of family.

I am beyond grateful my uncle was 'exactly where he needed to be' to work his way through this stormy season of his life.

Gratitude is deeply ingrained and woven into most every word he writes. He sees the gifts in people and the many ways small actions make a profound difference. He befriends cleaning ladies, fellow-residents and speaks kindly of those he writes about.

He lavishes compliments easily and proves his point by citing examples.

He recently told me how he 'hears' Mom in my laughter and my voice. He has accidentally called me by Mom's name. I know there was a mutual admiration between the two of them so I hold these comparisons close to my heart and quietly smile. He even wrote my mom's name and then crossed it out and replaced it with mine, in his letter to me. He will never ever know what a well timed gift he gave me.

Thank you, dear uncle. Your letter was the best gift I could have ever received.

Thank you.

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