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By 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 lives.

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 wasn’t alone.”

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 Christmas.

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 talked about.

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.

“I don’t 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 her.”

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.

“Mr. 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.

That 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 casket open.

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 floor.

“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 to Mother.”

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.

As I 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.”

As my family rushed to my side, the grief that shadowed our Christmas Eve celebration turned to joy.

While my 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 forever.

Jerry's Haven N Tell 2007 Christmas Pages

Candy Canes

The Month After Christmas

God Knows All About Us

Greetings From The Heart Christmas Special

Santa Claus Online

The North Pole

Free Santa Letter

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.
The children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
While visions of Nintendo and Barbie, flipped through their
heads.

The dad was snoring in front of the TV,
With a half-constructed bicycle on his knee.

So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
Which made her sigh, "Now what's the matter?"
With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.
He was covered with ashes and soot, which fell with a shrug.
"Oh great!!" muttered the mom, "Now I have to clean the rug."

"Ho-Ho-Ho!!" cried Santa, "I'm glad you're awake.
Your gift was especially difficult to make."
"Thanks, Santa, but all I want is some time alone."
"Exactly!!" he 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.
"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll 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 through!"

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."
The clone changed the small one, and hummed a tune,
As 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."

The mom kissed her child, and tucked her into bed.
"Thank you, Santa, for clearing my head.
I sometimes forget it won't be very long,
When they'll 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 COOKIES

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 lg. egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
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 platter.

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