80: Mom’s Wreath

80: Mom’s Wreath

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Mom’s Wreath

There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.

~Author Unknown

I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas 2013. After the passing of my mom in August, and my father just two years earlier, I was finding it difficult to drum up any Christmas spirit. It was a cold December day when I left work to meet my sister Sandi at our lawyer’s office to sign papers for the probate of Mom’s will. We were the executors, and after completing the necessary paperwork we decided to go for coffee to regroup and address any further estate issues. We also needed to discuss the upcoming Christmas Day gathering I was hosting at my home.

With a sense of relief we sat down with our coffees and had a little celebration for what we foolishly thought was the last of the major work involved in being an executor of a will. We had done so much already, and both of us were grateful that we worked well together. I have always attributed this to the fact that we love each other very much, and are good friends as well as sisters.

That’s when Sandi told me that after this year her family would probably not be coming to my place on Christmas. I was surprised and hurt. I’d simply assumed I would continue holding Christmas at my home, just as I had since 2001 when Mom had her heart attack and strokes. Our father, who had left us in July 2011, had had very strong opinions about family getting together. My parents were always grateful, and I knew Dad would want me to continue making sure the family got together. So when my sister told me this I was shocked and disappointed.

Realizing I was surprised, she explained beautifully how her own children had friends, and that she and her husband would like to have a Christmas at their place with just their immediate family. It made perfect sense. However at that moment I was in the wrong place to listen. We switched to the topic of this year’s gathering and then both began to call family members to verify they’d be at my place on that day. No one was home, so we both just ended up leaving messages. We left each other with a hug and the promise to let each other know as the responses to our calls came in.

The first call back came from my mother’s sister letting me know she wouldn’t be coming for Christmas. A friend who knew she had no immediate family other than nephews and nieces had invited her to attend her family’s Christmas gathering, and she had accepted. I said the appropriate things but I was devastated. My aunt was like a second mother to me. My mother had been her last surviving family member, and with no family of her own, she had always attended our family gatherings.

The next call came from my niece and nephew informing me they’d be going to Ontario to visit family there. I felt numb. I could understand my niece and nephew, they were both married and had family elsewhere, but I was already reeling from the news from my aunt and the earlier conversation with my sister. I was heartbroken.

Then my brother, a minister with the Mennonite Church in New Brunswick, called and suggested that I not hold a family Christmas gathering this year. I suspected my sister Sandi had called him and asked him to call me — hoping he could help me to understand that every family has its own dynamics and that her decision had nothing to do with me. With both Mom and Dad gone, things were different now; life had changed. But I resisted and defended my feelings, saying that Mom and Dad would want at least one more year, wouldn’t they? It had been so important to our parents, and it felt to me like I needed to do this for them.

The next day at work I remembered my friends had booked a wreath-making course for us at the local greenhouse. But I just didn’t want to go. I had tried so hard to keep my Christmas spirit, but it was gone and I was discouraged. My parents were gone, my family didn’t want to come to my house, and my aunt wasn’t coming. Who was I doing this for? Add to this the deep grief I still felt at the loss of both my parents, and the thought of Christmas this year was simply heartbreaking.

After work that day, when I pulled into my driveway I saw something that completely shocked me. A Christmas wreath I did not recognize was hanging on my front door. I actually couldn’t move for a few moments. Where had it come from? Who put it up? But there it was, a symbol of Christmas, hanging in all its beauty on my front door. When I entered the house my husband hugged me and said, “Merry Christmas, hon.” Knowing I was down about how things were working out, he’d wanted to do something special to lift my spirits. To my amazement, he had decorated the entire house, and it looked so beautiful and festive.

“Where did the wreath come from?” I asked.

“Well, it’s the funniest thing,” he said. He then told me how after he had picked up all the Christmas decorations from where we kept them on the lower right side of the pantry, for some reason he couldn’t explain he looked over at the opposite side. “There was a plastic bag,” he continued, “so I went and got it. When I opened it I discovered it was a wreath I didn’t even know we had. So I put it up.”

It was only then I remembered it was my mother’s wreath. After she had passed away in August, and while we were clearing out her apartment, the wreath had been one of the things I brought home. But with everything else I was dealing with I had totally forgotten about it.

And with that realization, I broke down in tears. At a time when I was feeling really down and discouraged, I believe God and my mother sent me my very own special Christmas miracle to lift my spirits. I understood then that getting together with my family doesn’t have to be on Christmas; it can be any day, as long as we get together in the spirit of Christmas. I believe my mom led my husband to find the forgotten wreath to remind me what Christmas really is — and that she is still with me. Now, every year when I lovingly place Mom’s wreath on my door, I will thank both her and God for this wonderful gift!

~Diane Grace Driedger

Steinbach, Manitoba

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