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At this time of year when our thoughts are filled with joy and wonder at the miracle of birth (specifically one miraculous Birth) and the prospect of spending the time with family and friends in celebration, it’s a jolt when something happens that takes one of our loved ones out of the picture of life and leaves us to face these special times with an empty place.  Such was the situation 11 years ago when my dad went to his heavenly home just a few weeks from Christmas, which was always a time of incredible joy for him as well as our family.

Last night I went to a memorial service for the mother of a very special young man whom I worked with for several years before he headed off to an out of town college to finish his degree.  Each time he was in town he would stop in the store to say hello to his “Target mom”, get a hug, and whine a little bit about not having had my cheese soup for so long.  We didn’t see each other often, but the bond remained despite the miles and the time.

I didn’t have the privelege of knowing his mother, but the moment I heard of her death, I knew I had to be there for Tyler.  Not only in thought and prayer, but in body… an unexpected physical reminder to him that he and his brother and sister are not alone.  Eleven years ago, there were many such “reminders” for me and they stay with me to this day and will the rest of my life.  And the smile on his face when he saw me told me that this would be one such reminder for him as well.

I sat in the pew, overcome with emotion and remembrances of a time so long ago.  But rather than being sad, I felt joy and comfort and peace in the knowing and assurance that though our loved ones are gone from this earthly life, they will always remain a part of us.  They’ll be there for the births and the marriages and the successes (and yes the failures)… and they’ll have the best seat in the house!  And they’ll be among the first to welcome us Home when the time comes.  What joy and hope there is in that!

I wish I’d known Tyler’s mom in this life.  But in a way I do…. in the part of her that remains on this earth in Tyler and his family.

What a blessing!  What a gift!

And life goes on…..