Saturday, December 31, 2011


Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I remember when we moved into our home 13 years ago I would see him out walking every day. He was energetic and full of joy. Smiles would come easily, lighting up his face and he had a great laugh. Then he suffered a stroke and there began his slow downturn. His bubbly wife nursed him with love and compassion until she could no longer care for him on her own. She would go and see him at the assisted living center whenever she could, but since she didn't drive it wasn't as often as she would like. She watched her husband suffer terribly, and yet she would meet you with a smile, always showing interest in our lives and what the kids were doing. On Christmas Eve, he passed from this life.

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I embraced his crying wife and daughter and said how sorry I was -- how great a man Mr. P was and the joy he brought to those who knew him. I went into the pew and knelt to pray for the repose of Mr. P's soul and ask the merciful Lord to bring comfort and peace to Mr. P's family.  As we were leaving, his daughter held me and said, "Call her (Mrs.P). Please just call her. She may not answer, but she will know she is remembered."

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. Other neighbors were present there. Some I know and some I do not. When I am outside I will wave, but many of my neighbors are just familiar faces. How can we lift each other and help each other if we don't even know each other's name? How did we get to the point where we don't know the names of those who live near us? How did we get so caught up in our own lifes that we don't connect with the lifes of those in closest proximity to us?

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. As we were leaving, Mrs. P held me and thanked me for all we had given to her since we moved in. All I could think is that we had really given her so very little - how could that tiny bit mean so much? She looked at my husband and I and thanked us for our Christmas decorations. "Your house looks so beautiful. We would come home from visiting Mr. P and feel so dejected and so low, and your house looked so cheery and would lift our spirits. Thank you for that."

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I was reminded of much in that hour in church today. I remembered how the bright smile of a neighbor out for a walk and stopping for a chat could warm your heart. I remembered how watching Mrs. P care for her husband showed me how Jesus wants us to care for one another with love and humility. I remembered how prayer is a great gift for our own souls as well as the souls of those we care about. I was reminded that I need to reach out to my neighbors more and try to get to know them better. I was reminded that even the simplest of things - like hanging Christmas decorations on your home - can do far more for someone's broken spirit than you may ever be aware of.

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. Much thanks for the time to honor him, pray for his soul and his family, reflect on what he taught me simply because I knew him. May we all be better people because of what we learn through our interactions with those around us.

I hope my achievements in life shall be these - that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, that I will have given help to those who were in need...that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been.
     C. Hoppe

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where are You?

Growing up, this time of year was magical to me. The Advent wreath, the Christmas tree, the decorations, the Advent calendar, the ornaments, the smell of pine, the lights.  Baking, shopping, singing, watching Christmas movies. Snuggling in bed on Christmas Eve while butterflies were dancing in my heart making sleep nearly impossible.  I close my eyes and I can go right back to how I felt at that time.

On Christmas morn I used to wake bright and early with my siblings. Much, much earlier than my parents. We would whisper and talk and watch the clock to see when it would be ok to go down to wake our parents. We would sneak down the stairs to use the bathroom and peek into the family room to see if the stockings were full and the presents were under the tree. When the time came, we would run down the stairs, get our parents up and race to.... our nativity scene. We wanted to see if baby Jesus had come. Then we would tear over to the tree and into our presents.

As I've grown older, my love for this time of year is still there, but it isn't quite the same. Family relationships have changed - some growing stronger, others struggling. The world has picked up its pace. Stores start packing Christmas items on their shelves in October. Radio stations are playing Christmas music before Halloween! My nuclear family has changed: a husband, in-laws, and children are added to the mix. Am I able to keep up? Am I passing down the love and meaning of this season to my children?

Over the last few years I've found myself asking more and more, "Where are you?" Where are you, Jesus? Where are you, Christmas? It takes longer for the spirit of the season to fill my heart and lift me up. It takes longer for the lightness and laughter to penetrate the darkness. However, it does always seem to win out.

Maybe that is a good thing. The weeks before Christmas are a time of waiting, of preparation, of darkness. Christ, the true Light, comes on Christmas morn to fill our hearts with hope, with love.

I reflect on those Christmases of my childhood and they bring me great joy. My prayer is that my children will look back and have warm and happy memories of this time of year. I pray that my children will feel the wonder and awe that this season brings. I pray that our traditions remind them of the love we have for each other.

In the morning as I do my prayers I look over at the nativity scene waiting for Jesus to arrive on Christmas morn. Where are you, Jesus? Where are you, Christmas? Fill us with your music, with your love, with your hope, with your joy. Fill us with your magic. Fill our hearts so completely and beautifully that we always know where to find you in ourselves and in each other.

Let's Keep Christmas
Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;
Whatever doubts assial us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
It's poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.
     Ada V. Hendricks

Faith Hill - Where Are You, Christmas?