Just last week I was in my apron, messing up my kitchen for a Thai dish I had longed for weeks to prepare.
My counter was filled with ingredients, the radio was playing a lively Celtic tune, and I was conscious of the glow inside and the black, rich night outside.
I peered out the window. It was my neighbor Bill, standing below my steps.
I rushed out, worried. Bill has not been well. He's lived through a year of doctors and hospital visits, and navigating my front stoop in the dark would not be a good idea.
Bill's phone line had gone dead. I made calls to the phone company, visited with him and lent him my cell phone. (My husband, Ralf, made him promise he would get his own cell phone.)
The next morning, as Ralf and I left for work, we saw someone waving at us, coming down the street from Bill's house.
My breath stopped for a split second. Mary?
Mary, who used to come out for the paper in her pajamas and robe (and meet me to chat at the mailbox). Who spoke to me about the son she had lost years before while we watched my little boy play in the yard. Mary, who knew I hated shopping but also knew that if I had to go to a store for clothes, I'd make a point of visiting her at Belk, where she worked.
But it was Wanda, not Mary. Wanda is Mary's oldest daughter. She moves, talks and looks like her mother. The same sweet face, the same calm, the same ease.
Maybe it's the time of year that made memories of Mary come back with such force.
Next week is Thanksgiving, when family and friends gather together. Almost seeing Mary made me think about how Bill's family would feel, gathering together for another year without her presence. It seems like yesterday that we lost her.
Holidays can give us beautiful gifts. The doorbell rings and those in the kitchen call out, smile, rush for a hug.
I love you. I've missed you. It's so good to see you.
Joy is mixed with sorrow. We remember those missing from our richly decorated tables, our festive meals. Sometimes, the sorrow overwhelms the joy.
May we remember their loved ones as we need to, with tears and sorrow, with shared stories and warm memories. May we celebrate being together and acknowledge and honor those we miss.
May we call out to them, remember them and never stop loving them. Our love and our memories keep them with us in this and all seasons.