Unexpected Blossoming

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Little one
When you arrived
You were like a little rosebud
Picked in the rain
Crinkled, crimson, vulnerable

And I was afraid
Time would tarnish you further

My heart quaked before seeing you again
And I felt terrible to be a mother afraid
To see her own child

The first night it was true
You were so cold
As if the frost had bitten your beauty
And your stillness was so solemn

I left you that night
Weeping and broken
With a sprig of baby’s breath
Clutched in your tiny fists

But when we returned
Two days later to visit you
Kindly laid out by the hospital chaplain
You were rosier
Your cheeks were fuller
Like the little rosebud
Had begun to unfurl

Such a mercy
Your three biggest sisters
Could find you lovely
Patting your cheek
Holding your tiny hands in theirs
Proudly having their picture taken with you
Their baby

They took turns leaving kisses
On your sweet face
One of the few gifts
You could take to Heaven

But the most beautiful day of all
Was the last one we saw you
At the funeral chapel

Our sweet funeral director Michelle
Suggested I help dress you
In the one dress you’ll wear forever
The one I searched the city for
And finally found in a little Italian shop
On the east side of town
Where the Italian grandmas embraced me
And exclaimed “Que bella, que bella!” at your photo

It was a fall baptismal dress
A cosy knitted one from Europe
With a matching sweater and booties
Creamy white with little bits of shiny pink
The last one in the store
Meant for you

So the day before your funeral
Michelle brought you to us
Carrying you in her arms
With the affection and tenderness of a mother
Wrapped in your cosy blanket
The warmest and softest one I could find

And, little rose, you were in bloom!
Your beauty was enchanting
You sparkled as Daddy held you close
And I even laughed and said
You were our little snow queen

You looked so real, so alive
So much like a little baby sleeping
That your grandmother
Meeting you for the first time
Couldn’t help rocking you back and forth
“My baby, my baby!”

So many came that day
All your five children siblings
Your two uncles
And one aunt
And our friend Fr. Uy
Who delivered your crown

You must have felt the affection
Poured on you as everyone took their turn
To hold you, our precious one
And I remember my brother Monti
The one who flew from Hawaii to be here for me
Saying as he held you, “She’s ok. She’s really ok.”

And as we crowned you with a tiny crown
Of yellow and white flowers
Laced with sparkles
And a tiny medal of our Lady
Hand sewn for hours that morning
By a woman from the parish we hardly knew
You, darling, simply glowed
Sharing with us
A tiny glimpse
Of the radiance of Heaven

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“Oh, Holy Night:” A Reflection on Wholeness

A few evenings ago we braved Christmas tree decorating with our little nest of 5 squirrels, aged 7 years to 8 months. It went surprisingly well. There were no major squabbles, decorations broken, or Christmas tree climbings. The baby squirrel did try to bat at the tree, and sucked on a star, but happily it was wooden.

The best part, besides the baby squirrel’s look of amazement when we turned the lights on the tree, was our two year old’s triumphant “I did it!” after she hung up each decoration. The lowest branches got very decorated! Every time she hung one she leaped into her pleased daddy’s arms and gave him a big hug.

While we decorated we listened to the Classic Christmas playlist on my Songza app (which I totally recommend). Songza has soundtracks for every mood and occasion. It’s like custom radio with no commercials: a digital DJ. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer is the most popular song in my house, but the kids like some of the traditional carols as well.

As we draw closer to this special time of the year, I’ve been reflecting a little on this holiness we sing about in carols. What does it mean?

When we think of the first Christmas night, the virgin birth, the choirs of angels filling the night sky with song, the birth of a savior, we perhaps think of beauty, light, transcendence, miracle. Wonderful things, but perhaps very ‘other’ than ourselves, very removed from our lives today.

From my limited experience with Hebrew, I believe holy, ‘kadosh,’ does indeed mean ‘set apart’. Is holiness something just for ancient biblical tales then, or is it something that involves me today?

It’s good to remember that this very extraordinary event of the first Christmas took place in very ordinary circumstances. In a stable or cave, surrounded by warm farm animals, munching hay while their breath rose in steamy clouds in the chill night air.

The first visitors were the humble shepherds, not the wise kings, so throughout the Christmas story, the theme of littleness prevails. Glory swaddled in humility, power curled up delicately as an infant in his mother’s arms.

Again, how does this image of holiness relate to me, today? Am I to try to imitate these ancient people in an exterior way, to try to conform to a particular image of goodness?

The more I mediate on the idea of holiness, the more I see that it is precisely in being wholly oneself, that one can reach holiness.

That to try to conform in non-essential exterior things in attempt to appear a certain way, is quite the opposite of holiness, for it is a betrayal of your own wholeness, a marring of the divine image which God made you. You are a unique, unrepeatable creation. Who you are is good; after all, you were His idea! You are loved exactly as you are.

Sometimes along the paths of life we pick up lots of emotional junk; it sticks to us and hides the beautiful image inside. I think the process of holiness is one of removing all this non-essential garbage: fear, pride, resentment, blame, etc to uncover the original creation that is truly you. This is a big process, one of a lifetime, and can feel overwhelming. Ask your Creator to help reveal his masterpiece. A little more each day.

So this Christmas, a season of gratitude, dig deep to find what is unique and beautiful in you, and give thanks for it. Without comparing yourself to others, because it is the sum of all the crazy, amazing people in the world that makes it such a wonderful place. Each with their own gifts to contribute, their own lessons to teach and to learn.

Here is a quote from humorist Erma Bombeck, who was a housewife, mother of three, and prolific writer of newspaper columns and books, including the awesomely titled “The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.”

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’

I encourage you to embrace your passion, nurture your creativity and believe your dreams can come true. Try something you always wanted to but were too afraid. Make the world a better place as only you, with your specific mission in life, can. This way you’ll be more holy, wholly, you. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what God had in mind.

And now, lest I’m all talk and no action, I’m off to the dishes, part of my particular mission to care for my family.

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