The Gift of Christmas Past

“And suddenly…God breaks into our lives, if we only notice it.”
~Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie

Candlelight Service at Arlington Street Church
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Arlington Street Church in Boston

Last night I attended the beautiful candlelight service at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie delivered the sermon entitled, “And Suddenly…” in which she spoke about the many subtle ways in which God reaches out and touches us; we need only be aware of how [s/he] works through us in love. It is that spark of God’s light and love that we can then pass along to our fellow travelers.

A few weeks ago, ‘God broke into my life,’ and certainly in cahoots with my Loved Ones in Spirit, delivered the most amazing Christmas gift for me to share with my family. For me, as for many of you, Christmas is a time of mixed blessings and emotions. It’s wonderful to get swept up into the hustle and bustle of the season, searching for those perfect gifts, decorating our homes with strings of lights, preparing and sharing our favorite foods, and wrapping ourselves in the love of friends and family and the good humor that flows sweet through these special days. But for many, there’s also that subtle sadness that creeps in as we remember our Loved Ones who have passed into Spirit—their absence still heavy in our hearts.


I too, was feeling that subtle sadness creep in. I’d visited some of my family in Minnesota over Thanksgiving, but this Christmas the family was to be scattered across the country, and I was on my own. I had hoped that the loving energy and happy memories of my Thanksgiving trip would carry me through Christmas, but I had underestimated the emotional power of the season. It was Saturday, December 8th to be exact, when I woke up feeling undeniably blue. And when I feel blue, I clean my house. As I go through the motions of cleaning my physical home, my mind is freed to roam over and through and around what is troubling me, seeking solace and resolution. It’s a ritual of catharsis, and it always lifts my spirits, so after a hearty breakfast, I pulled out the vacuum and my dust rags and went at it with every bit of energy I could summon.

If you know me, or have been following my blog, you may have learned that in the past few years my parents, Dennis and Elva, and my sister, Laura, passed into Spirit. During my early teen years, my sister Susie and brother Merle also left our Earth Plane for The Other Side. So when I say I was feeling a little sad about not being with family—I mean all of them, here on the Earth Plane and in Spirit. As I pushed and pulled the vacuum through the rooms of my house, my mind was tracing back to the many joy-filled Christmases of my past. As an adult, I would travel from the far corners of the Earth to get home for Christmas, to share those few special days with my family. What a pleasure it was to sit around the formal dinner table set with family heirloom china, silver, and crystal goblets, plates piled high with favorite family recipes. How fun it was to give out the presents I had so carefully selected. Every year, I’d marvel at how my nieces and nephews had grown, I’d catch up on the latest news in my siblings’ lives, and I’d swap favorite books with my father. And I always looked forward to those special heart-to-heart talks with my mother after everyone had gone back home. Oh, how I missed those Christmases. As the vacuum whirred and whined, I kept telling myself that I needed to learn to “live in the present,” to accept and allow for change, to build new traditions and not grieve what is no longer…but I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready, or I just wasn’t strong enough. Either way, all I wanted was to go back in time and experience our family Christmas just once more. I let the tears flow as I went about my cleaning, waiting for the catharsis, knowing I’d feel better when the whole house was clean.

The lingering 80'sAs I tucked a blanket onto the lower shelf of my TV armoire, my eyes wandered over to an old cassette tape storage box sitting on the same shelf. Day after day I ignore it, but on that day it finally captured my attention. All those old cassettes! Why did I still have them? They needed to go. Time to purge! I pulled out one drawer, then another, and another, and pretty soon six little drawers were lined up on the living room floor before me. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Falco, Whitney Houston, Culture Club (remember them?!), Pat Benatar, Smokey Robinson… Yep, the 80’s. It was fun running my fingers over the labels, pulling them out one by one to read the song list, and thinking back to those crazy years of my youth living in Japan.

And then I saw it. The last in a row of tapes was one that had been personally recorded, with the label “Christmas 1986 (Dec. 24th eve),” in my mother’s handwriting. 1986—one of the very few years I did not come home for Christmas. I’d been living in Japan, my first year out of grad school, and simply couldn’t afford it. I didn’t recall what was on this tape, so I took it over to my stereo system and dropped it in.

The tape: Christmas Eve 1986
The tape: Christmas Eve 1986

My sister, Connie, was the first speaker. She provided the setting: Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s. She introduced me to her daughter, my new niece, Jaclyn Susan, whom I’d not yet met for she was just 10 days old. My mother, Elva, then piped in that dinner was over, that Dad had done a good job as “Chief Bottle Washer,” and that they were all about to settle into the living room to open presents. My father, Dennis, then entered the room, and asked what was going on. Quite naturally, he took on the role as my narrator for the next hour—interpreting the hubbub in the room, telling me about the new Day in the Life of America book in which his singing group appeared, and at one point, even humming a little tune with his rich baritone voice. Brother Jim instructed Dad on the use of the recorder, while my sister, Laura, lamented the tear in her little daughter, Sarah’s, new dress.

I pulled the blanket back out of the armoire, curled up on the sofa and closed my eyes. I let the sounds and voices take me there—back to the living room of my family home on Christmas Eve of 1986. As I listened, all my senses became engaged. I could see everyone as they were in those years. I could smell the lingering aromas from the traditional Christmas dinner. I could hear the fire crackling in the fireplace as the Concord Singers Christmas album—with whom my father performed—played in the background. I saw the lights twinkling on the tree and I smelled the boughs of evergreen on the mantel. I saw the children opening their presents and through their shouts of glee as the paper


fell away, imagined expressions of joy and excitement on their young faces. I watched and laughed as my late brother-in-law, Rich, read the note I’d attached to the traditional New Year’s gift of a Buddhist Daruma-san I’d sent from Japan. Such wry humor he had! I chuckled as Dad instructed my nephew Lance, “to just read the directions,” printed in Japanese, of course. I took it in, all of it. I let myself be bathed and surrounded in it – the love, the humor, the laughter, the joy, the song, and even the tiny cries of infant Jacklyn. It was a part of me, and I of it. There was no time; there was just this moment, just this little miracle, just this beautiful gift from Heaven—evidence of God and Spirit breaking through.

Spreading the love: if there was ever a gift of God’s love and light to share, it was this one. The very night I discovered the tape, I bought a tape cassette converter and created CD’s for all the members of my family, that they may experience once more the happy voices of their siblings, parents, and grandparents now in Spirit. They are opening their gifts as I write this entry. I can’t wait to hear their reactions.

So, yes, I got my wish for Christmas. I wanted to relive a family Christmas from my past, and I did—again and again and again. God understood my sorrow, heard my prayers muttered over the noise of the vacuum cleaner, and led me to the one thing in my house that could console me, a gift of Christmas past I had long since forgotten. The vibration of the human voice is a very powerful vehicle. It is the energetic stream upon which we connect with Spirit through the divide of time and space. It is the vehicle of prayer, by which God or Universal Intelligence, our Guides, and our Loved Ones in Spirit hear what we hold in our hearts.

So trust. Let God break into your life, and let the miracles unfold.

Happy Holidays, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to All!

With Love and Light,
~Renee Buck

5 thoughts on “The Gift of Christmas Past

  1. Renee, your post has left me in a puddle of tears. That was the most wonderful gift you received. Wow, God is truly amazing, isn’t He? Merry Christmas, and I wish you a New Year without tears or longing, but instead, each day filled with the peace of knowing that your loved ones are with you. Thank you for allowing me to hear your story.


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