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Ellen Ingersoll Plum
Miracles happen in the most unlikely
places. When the shepherds heard the angels proclaim,
“Alleluia, hail the King,” the star did not lead them to a
palace. The shepherds found their prince of peace in a
stable, lying in a manger.
My Christmas miracle
happened in an even stranger place - a funeral home. But
it wasn’t strange to me. My husband, a funeral director
like his father, built a branch office in the suburbs.
In the apartment above it, between viewings and funerals, we
raised two daughters and lived normal
Through the years, I became fascinated by
the endless accounts I heard of grieving people who received
messages from God, assuring them their deceased loved ones
were all right and still with them. Different as one
circumstance was from another, a similarity in the messages
gave them credibility.
At his wife’s viewing, one man
said, “I couldn’t sleep and got up in the middle of the night
feeling lonely and lost. I walked into the kitchen to
brew a pot of coffee and wait for morning. But there, on
the kitchen window sill, I spotted an enormous blossom on my
wife’s favorite cactus plant. Staring at it, a great
peace filled me, and I felt as if I had witnessed a
miracle. I understood that my wife was all right - and I
One young woman said, “Yesterday
afternoon, I wandered out to Dad’s vegetable garden in the
backyard. He’d been too sick to plant anything this
year, but there, among the crabgrass and chickweed, I
discovered one magnificent watermelon. Dad always said
watermelon took up too much room, but he continued to grow
them, because they were my favorite. When I rushed
inside to tell my father about it, he was dead. I knew
then the watermelon was a message from Dad - he’d probably had
an angel deliver it - because there it was, all ripe and ready
to pick. While I can’t see my father, I know he’s alive,
and we’ll be together again.”
Over time, I heard
hundreds of similar stories and when my mother died, a few
days before Christmas, I desperately wanted one of those
miracles for myself.
All her life, Mother grew
magnificent roses and made a ritual of carrying in and
savoring the last rose of the season. “If roses could
last through Christmas, winter wouldn’t seem so long,” she
said. In New Jersey, roses occasionally survived until
Thanksgiving. Never had one made it to
On December 22, I noticed that a scattering
of leaves still clung to a rose bush nestled under the stairs
to our apartment on the second floor. And there, at the
top, like an angel on a Christmas tree, one bud waited to
blossom. It was a tiny, fragile thing - like Mother at
the end - but I knew that rose, lasting until Christmas, would
be my miracle. When it blossomed, I would carry it
inside and feel that wonderful sense of peace other people
For years, I had combed and styled
women’s hair for viewings, and I was anxious to do this one
final thing for Mother. As I finished Mother’s hair, the
office doorbell rang. The Snyder family had arrived for
their appointment with my husband a half-hour early. Mr.
Snyder and his daughter looked devastated, and something in
the younger woman’s eyes made me choke off the words, “You’re
early, and my husband isn’t here. Why don’t you come
back in half an hour?”
As they stepped inside, I
noticed that Mr. Snyder limped, and leaned so heavily on his
cane that I wondered if it would support him.
want to see her,” Mr. Snyder grumbled, as he dropped onto a
chair. “She looked horrible. I don’t want anyone
to see her.”
“Please, Dad,” the daughter cried.
“I don’t think I can live with myself for not getting here in
time unless I see Mother.”
“No,” Mr. Snyder
snapped. “She wouldn’t want you to see her like
that. Her hair was all matted and she looked
horrible. There will be no viewing and no one will see
The daughter’s eyes pleaded with me. It was
our policy to stay out of such matters, but as I turned away,
something in that woman’s eyes stopped me.
Snyder,” I said, “we do women’s hair whether there is a
viewing or not. Why don’t you think about this? If
your daughter would like to see her mother, come in fifteen
minutes before the funeral.”
My husband arrived then,
and when Mr. Snyder lumbered into his office with his
daughter, I stepped outside for another look at that rose
bud. It would bloom tomorrow - the day of Mother’s
funeral - and I would feel the wonderful sense of peace others
had spoken of when they received their message.
evening, when my daughters arrived with their families, they
agreed. The delicate blossom that would be the Christmas
rose represented the love and care Mother had given us, and
the joyous moments we shared together. The thorns
represented the difficult times, when her strength inspired us
and bound us close together.
During the night, a cold
front moved in. When we returned from the cemetery, the
rose bud had withered from frostbite and died on the
vine. “But it was there,” my daughters assured me.
“We all saw it.”
To ease their grief, I agreed.
Inside, I felt abandoned.
The next morning, December
24, I wondered how I would cope with Christmas. It was
also the day of Mrs. Snyder’s funeral. While I decided
not to attend, I told my husband how much Mr. Snyder’s
daughter wanted to see her mother, and asked him to leave the
Breakfast was such a somber affair that I
called my daughters into the kitchen and said, “There are
children to think about. Mother wouldn’t want to spoil
their Christmas. She would want us to celebrate the way
she taught us - with reverence and joy. So let’s start with
the Christmas tree.” Silently, I asked myself how I
would muddle through.
On Christmas Eve, while my
daughters and I prepared the traditional dinner, a car pulled
into the parking lot. From the kitchen window, I saw Mr.
Snyder struggle from the front seat with his cane, and he
spoke to his daughter in a voice that boomed up to the second
“No!” he growled. “I can make it up those
stairs, and I want to tell Mrs. Plum, myself.”
Now, you’ve done it, I
thought. Will you ever
learn to stay out of other people’s affairs and let them make
their own decisions? If Mr. Snyder wants to give you a
tongue lashing, you deserve it.
I opened the door, expecting
the worst. Mr. Snyder huffed and puffed after his
struggle with the steps, and he gasped as he said, “I want to
thank you for what you did for my wife. She looked
beautiful. I’m so grateful to have that last picture of
her in my mind. I will carry it with me for the rest of
my life. My daughter and I want to express our gratitude
by sharing something of hers with you.”
I knew by the
velvet box in his daughter’s hand that it contained a piece of
her jewelry that she should keep for herself. “Thank
you,” I said. “But I don’t accept gifts. . .
“Please,” the daughter cut in. “We want you to
have it. It’s nothing of great value, but it meant a lot
As I accepted the box, the daughter’s hand
touched mine. For a moment, our fingers clung as if we
were sharing an emotion so powerful it paralyzed us. Our
eyes met, and though no words were spoken, I knew an angel had
touched me, and a miracle was about to happen.
lifted the lid and saw the pin, my heart swelled and tears of
joy stung my eyes. On a bed of velvet lay a silver
Christmas rose. The legend printed inside the lid read,
“On a cold Bethlehem night, a little shepherd girl wept
because she had no gift for the newborn babe. The Magi
had brought rich gifts, but she had none. Suddenly, a
rose appeared where her tears had fallen. A gift from an
angel . . . a miracle of love.”
As Mr. Snyder struggled
down the stairs with his daughter, I clutched that box to my
chest and cried, “It’s here! My miracle.”
family rushed to my side, the grief that shadowed our
Christmas Eve celebration turned to joy.
husband clipped the silver Christmas rose to the tallest
spike, God’s message melded with angels, shepherds and
Christmas itself. The first Christmas brought a gift of
love for everyone, the old, the young, the great and the
small. Mother’s rose represented the miracle of
it. Love is a gift that never dies; it lives
A Mom's Night Before Christmas
It was the night before Christmas, when
all through the abode
Only one creature was
stirring, and she was cleaning the commode.
children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
While visions of Nintendo and Barbie, flipped
The dad was snoring in
front of the TV,
With a half-constructed bicycle on
So only the mom heard the reindeer
Which made her sigh, "Now what's the
With toilet bowl brush still clutched in
She descended the stairs, and saw the old
He was covered with ashes and soot, which fell
with a shrug.
"Oh great!!" muttered the mom, "Now I
have to clean the rug."
Santa, "I'm glad you're awake.
Your gift was
especially difficult to make."
"Thanks, Santa, but
all I want is some time alone."
chuckled, "I've made you a clone."
"A clone?" she
asked, "What good is that?
Run along, Santa. I've no
time for chit-chat."
It was the mother's twin.
Same hair, same eyes, same double chin.
cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
relax, take it easy, watch the Young and the Restless."
"Fantastic!!" the mom cheered. "My dream come true!
I'll shop. I'll read. I'll sleep a whole night
From the room above, the youngest
began to fret.
"Mommy?!? I'm scared, and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."
"Hey," the mom smiled, "She knows her part."
clone changed the small one, and hummed a tune,
she bundled the child, in a blanket cocoon.
"You're the best mommy ever. I really love you."
The clone smiled and sighed, "I love you, too."
The mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.
That's my child's love that she's trying to steal."
Smiling wisely Santa said, "To me it is clear,
Only one loving mother is needed here."
mom kissed her child, and tucked her into bed.
"Thank you, Santa, for clearing my head.
sometimes forget it won't be very long,
be too old, for my cradle-song."
The clock on the
mantle began to chime.
Santa whispered to the clone,
"It works every time."
With the clone by his
side, Santa said, "Good night.
Merry Christmas, Mom.
You'll be alright."
CHRISTMAS TREE BUTTER
1/2 c. butter,
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 lg. egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking
1/2 tsp. salt
In large bowl, beat butter, sugar,
egg, and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. At low speed,
beat flour mixture gradually into butter mixture. Blend
well. Refrigerate, covered 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Work with
1/4 dough at a time, keeping remainder refrigerated.
Roll to 1/4 inch with floured rolling pin. Cut with
Christmas tree cookie cutter or any shape. Space 1 inch
apart on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 4-7
minutes until edges are barely brown. Under baking is
the secret to soft cookies. Cool on wire racks. To
frost, mix powdered sugar with softened butter and a
little milk. Go heavy on the sugar to keep the frosting
whiter. Frost cooked trees. Sprinkle with a variety of
sprinkles. These are beautiful and festive when put out
on a large
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