A Christmas Legacy

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It was a white day that year when I, at the tender age of seven, sat waiting expectantly for her to arrive –those wonderful white days when the snow has not yet fallen but the promise is there. At any moment you will see those crystal flakes and know that it is finally Christmas at last for what is Christmas without snow?

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Her arrival heralded Christmas in the same fashion, and finally she is there — arms laden with bursting packages as she enters, embracing us and exclaiming. “Oh my, how you’ve grown!”  I felt that Santa himself could not have made a more dramatic entrance.   We tore open her seemingly never-ending supply of gifts as she watched us, her lauighter filling the room, and her joy was made complete in the simple mindfulness of our supreme happiness.

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We felt that way at Christmastime, but other times as well. It seemed as though the spirit of Christmas was around us even in the middle of summer.  As we walked into her kitchen, still warm from the baking ham, her table perpetually set for arriving guests, we felt almost heady from her constant attention and devotion from this woman we called grandmother.

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We took secret delight in her endless ministrations.   The food — oh!  At every visit there was a feast, for that is how she showed her love.  Then, with the gifts — gifts from the heart, for she knew each of us so well — and once again Christmas was upon us with all of its magic and surprise, even in July.

Every year, every Christmas was the same, although after I married and moved away, I didn’t see her as often as I would have wished.  Still, we celebrated whenever we could.  Those moments were treasured, for we knew that our time together on this earth was short.  She never gave in to the sickness that ravaged her body — she was always there, hands serving her children, her grandchildren, and now, her great grandchild.  On her final visit, I saw in my son what I felt so long ago — his eyes shining while she held him, swollen with the sickness, and told him stories and gave him candy kisses and singing “Candy Kisses Wrapped in Paper” as she did every Christmas.   I felt the years melt away and I was taken back to when I was seven, and the magic was there in the warmth of the day.

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She passed away near Christmas time, and my heartache was much more acute that we would have to mourn her during this special time of the year.  On Christmas Eve, we buried her and as loved ones gathered around her for the last time, I put my hand over my swollen body and grieved that my littlest son, yet unborn, would never meet his great-grandmother and enjoy the magic that she brought  to Christmas.  I believe that in order to pacify my sadness,  I entertained the notion  that God himself — after watching her minister so fervently to her dear friends and family — finally proclaimed during Heaven’s busy Advent season, “We need her up here at once to assist us!”  And so, during the season she went, and there she is – still serving the angels with unceasing devotion.

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But to those of us here on earth, there was loss amidst the season.

Time passes, another Christmas draws near, and I am in the kitchen preparing for the arrival of guests.  I am caught up in my baking and our home is warm and filled with sounds of laughter.  My husband tells me to sit, but I have so much to do and I am enjoying the love I am sharing with my family and friends. I usher the kids into the kitchen, for they have been asking to bake cookies, and so we do — cookies topped with candy kisses.  We sing her song, “Candy Kisses Wrapped in Paper” and I tell them stories about their great grandmother and those early Christmas memories.   I feel her presence near, and I am at once amazed at the timelessness of love.

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While we are grieving we cannot fully grasp how deeply one person’s life touches and affects ours.  It is only later on, in our thoughts and in our actions, that we come to know how this person’s spirit lives inside us.  When a loved one lives in your heart, they are truly alive, for the love you share is the love you learned from them, and they are there in the love.

I smile at my boys then, confident that my youngest will know her – my grandmother — for a legacy never dies.  Rather, it is passed on from one generation to the next in each act of kindness and with every gesture of devotion.  She is there — I see her hands in mine as I serve my family;  I hear her voice as I sing her songs; I see through her eyes as I watch my sons open their gifts, their faces shining brightly with the excitement of my youth.  She is here in every act of charity and love that I have learned from her.

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And so, Christmas will always be.

Sharon Cece December 26, 2002 Cleveland Post

(Candy kisses wrapped in paper)

Candy kisses wrapped in paper mean more to you than any of mine
Candy kisses wrapped in paper you’d rather have ’em any old time

You don’t mean it when you whisper those sweet love words in my ear
Candy kisses wrapped in paper mean more to you than mine do dear

(Oh candy kisses wrapped in paper mean more to you than any of mine
Candy kisses wrapped in paper)

Once my heart was filled with gladness now there’s sadness only tears
Candy kisses wrapped in paper mean more to you than mine do dear
Mean more to you than mine do dear
(Candy kisses)

About Marie Coppola

Marie Coppola

A long-time human resources administrator and paralegal (B.S. in Business Administration/ Psychology, Certified Paralegal), Marie writes to aid employees with positive career options and resources, and to assist in career development solutions for students and employees; counsels on resumes, securing employment, and being successful with promotable possibilities. Marie finds inspiration in her faith, which she enjoys passing on to others, and finds gratification in helping others wherever she can.

Got a question, need advice? Marie can be reached at mcopp@ymail.com