Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Christmas Miracle

Tree of Angels

I had it marked on my calendar, December 7, 6pm at the Episcopal Church in town.  The Tree of Angels gathering, remembering those lost to violence and crime.

It had been 4 yrs since we were there.  This year marked 5 yrs since Quentin’s death.  Five years since we sat in the front row, our pain uncontrollable, lost in the fog of grief, going through the motions of trying to survive, watching my little son light the tree, the singing, the prayers.  

We drove past the church looking for a parking space.  I saw the doors open and the familiar tables set up at the entrance.  The place where the ornaments lay waiting.  It had been four years since I had last seen Quentin’s ornament, the little angel with his name displayed, fashioned by hand by my friend, an amazing potter.  I wondered if it would still be there.

Passing the open door on the way to the parking area caused a sinking feeling inside me.  Here I was confronting that pain by simply going in to the same church, sitting through the same ceremony.  All these years I had spent trying to avoid thinking about those dark days, months and years and now here I was, preparing to walk back into the memories.

I’ve always heard it said that time heals all wounds...but the scars remain, reminders of what once was.  I have spent these last years keeping the dark days stowed away in a small box inside my mind.  I dare not take the memories out and examine them for that pain is more than I can stand.  Call it self protection, call it weakness, It is my coping mechanism.

My son and I walked into the church.  There were the tables with hundred of angel ornaments and name tags displayed, ready to be picked up once again, held, read and finally placed on the enormous tree at the front of the chapel.  We looked over all the ornaments, searching for Quentin’s angel.  I looked over the table twice and could not find it.  I resigned myself to the fact that after all these years, it most likely was not there anymore.  After all, no one had come to place it on the tree for four years.  I felt such guilt and shame that my weakness had kept me from coming and now it was as if Quentin had never had a moment there at all.

We took a seat towards the back of the chapel.  I gazed around the room and the emotions overwhelmed me.  The tears came and I wondered if I could ever make them stop.

The somber ceremony began.  There were prayers for the dead and the living.  Speeches given on the need to cope and continue.  Words were offered on the importance of living life and finding joy outside the grief.

I noticed young people moving around the room, passing out ornaments that had not been claimed and needed to be hung.  We accepted unclaimed ornaments and knew that we would do for others what we could not do for ourselves for so long.  I looked at my ornament, it honored those killed in the OKC bombing.  My son held an ornament for Virginia Saldana.  

We listened to beautiful songs that summoned more tears and took me dancing amongst the  pain of the past.  The young people continued to pass out more ornaments, I now had three ornaments and I placed them on my fingers so they could be hung on the tree.

As we sat, a young girl with a basket of ornaments came by and asked if we would like to hang more.  I said no as I didn’t think we could manage many more  Suddenly I heard my son say “hey wait a minute, let me see that”.  I continued to look down at the ornaments laced within my fingers. My son said “I don’t believe it.”   I looked at him and then down to his hands.  There he held Quentin’s ornament.  We looked at it in complete disbelief.  The ornament we could not find had found us.  

God showed us once again how He can make things happen.  It was an amazing moment and my tears of pain turned to tears of gratitude for my God knows no bounds when it comes to His mercy and kindness. 

What happened tonight is nothing short of a miracle.  Of all the ornaments and of all the people in the room, God made sure Quentin’s ornament was handed to us.

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