I have spent days thinking about what I want to share during this holy season of love and giving. Reading the December pages in my personal journal, I came across my mother's Christmas letter of 1987, two years before she departed this earthly part of her life. So I decided to give you my mother.
Even 20 years after her death, it is still strange to speak of her in the past tense. To me, she has never died. She remains as real today as the day she went away.
One thing that keeps her real is the trail of letters and notes stored in my journal. One letter begins: "I enjoyed so much going with you Sunday before last to see the Amnicola Marsh. How strangely beautiful it is!"
I remember that day perfectly. At that time there was a walkway just over the surface of the marsh and a small shack at the end so people could hide and watch the winter birds coming through.
Mother always walked with awe around nature. She was speechless and quiet throughout the marsh experience, like she was one time in Florida when she stood high above the rocks where the mist from the crashing waves mingled with the tears streaming down her face. She said, "Be very still, Roy. The Great Spirit is here."
Nothing will cut through a child's fears and doubts like seeing a parent in the throes of deep, passionate reverence and awe. You realize that the spiritual part of life is indeed the most real.
Her deep contact with nature was the gift of her Cherokee grandfather who would walk through the woods with her sitting on his shoulders, her eyes full of wonder. He brought nature to life for her and it remained a living, breathing thing to her all of her life. She said, "He loved me and shared beautiful truths with me. He didn't think a child was dumb. He called us 'little people.'" She once told me, "Grandfather said the best way to teach little people respect for their elders is to treat little people with respect."
Some words from this Christmas letter gave me guidance and courage the years I was county executive: "God never made man a worm to be picked to pieces by useless annoying blackbirds. I believe in the possible at all times and it is possible now."
Every year when I re-read this Christmas letter from her, it gets my Christmas priorities right. She said, "I am more joyous over your love and kindness than any other characteristic you have shown to me. God demands that we love people and it is so easy to do when Christ lives in our hearts. Thank you for the lovely book. I kissed and kissed it. Sharing what we have with everyone at Christmas and making them feel important and loved is my way. For your father and me, the important thing is how you children all give yourselves to us."
If you are seeking a memorable Christmas, accept the gifts my mother offers -- reverence for all the holy things, respect for the little people, a belief in good things happening now, and giving yourself to everyone you love.