Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I cracked under pressure. I’m not proud of this and I don’t want to talk about it.   The old traditional decorations are still going to Leah (she asked for them), but I decided I’m not quite ready to be the eccentric old lady in the yellow bungalow who puts up a tree with no ornaments. So I went shopping for a new theme, a new idea for Christmas trees yet to come. First stop: Pier One. I was no sooner in the door but I had an epiphany.

BELLS!!!!! I love bells! I have always loved bells! Bells will be the theme of my new tree and my new Christmases.  My favorite carol is I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day. It’s actually part of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War. His wife had died, his son had joined the union army, all was dark and hopeless:

Then in despair I bowed my head.
“There is no peace on Earth,” I said.
     “For hate is strong
      And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep.
      The Wrong shall fail,
      The Right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Bells will have this meaning for me. Hope, Joy, Renewal. Bells in different colors, different sizes and shapes, from different countries or traditions. A tree ringing out a message! A few now, a few more next year, a vision for years to come.

And just when you think your troubles are behind you and you’re going to have yourself a Merry Little Christmas…. you get the phone call.

My beloved mother-in-law is failing fast. She was diagnosed with leukemia about the same time Greg got sick, seven years ago.  Her blood counts are too low to measure, her lungs have filled with fluid, she has a high fever. Her good fight is coming to its inevitable end. She will soon hear bells of unimaginable splendor….Hope, Joy, Renewal on a scale I can’t begin to fathom.

We are a family who often gets our grief delivered in December, never wrapped in pretty paper but always marked “Fragile”.  Greg spent the holidays of 2007 in Hospice, and my father passed in early December many years ago.  A part of me feels thrown to the ground, tripped up again by sorrow. Will it ever end? Is there really a point in trying to capture this Christmas Spirit thing with so much sadness everywhere?

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep….”  I just have to look on my beautiful
Christmas tree for the answer!


  1. For some reason I've been thinking of my mom's husband who passed unexpectedly the first December we were here. Not of him, specifically, but the timing and mom and stuff. I am praying for you, with you. The words would sound empty so I'll keep them between me and God. Actually, I'm hoping the spirit will say them for me as he's much better at that.

    To the carol you like, if you want a laugh, ask Ted about the crazy woman in Gainesville who sang that carol one year at our Home League Christmas party.

    I wish you lived on this side of the state. I have a feeling we could have some fun decorating together!

    1. Thanks Debby. And yes, we'd have a blast decorating.