Our mother died in June of this year, a few months short of her 93rd birthday. I loved her deeply – we all did, her entire family – but I haven’t grieved her much. Not yet. She was in so much pain and so confused that it was better she continue her journey in some other realm. In recent weeks, when I slow down and let the quiet surround me for a few moments, I am reminded of conversations with her during Christmases past. Mom loved Christmas. I wish I could call her today, but I would want it to be at least five years before she died. I want to talk with her back before the ghosts of those she had loved flitted into and out of every conversation. They were not ghosts at all for her; they were very real. This is an excerpt from her writings, describing a Christmas memory from her childhood. Cassie grew up just a few blocks from the Grand River, on Lafayette in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids.
Catherine Verschoor Neely McNabb Writes . . .
I do not know how old I was that year I saw and heard the Christmas angels – seven, eight or even nine. It was early on Christmas morning, before anyone was stirring. I became conscious of the presence of angels moving up and down a staircase above the foot of my bed. There was singing, a bubbly crystal-clear sound, and a swaying rhythm. It gave me a sense of profound comfort, and a feeling that all was perfect in my world just then.
Later when we were having breakfast around the tree and opening our presents I sort of explored the subject to see if anyone else in the house saw or heard the angels. Nobody picked up on my hints or gave me a lead-in on the subject of angels so I kept it always to myself. I really did not want to expose my wonder-vision to anybody else by actually talking about it, especially if no one else had the experience. To this day I can recall the feeling I had. Every Christmas morning I still hug it to my heart and savor it privately. I do not think it was the dream of an over-excited child. I think there really were angels in my bedroom that Christmas morning.
One other time in my life I have had this feeling of the nearness of a heavenly presence. That time I felt it was God who was near me when our second son, Joey, was baptized at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. Ralph and I were standing in the pew, Joey in my arms wrapped in an embroidered yellowed wool blanket that had been around my father when he was baptized in the same church. Tommy, our first-born, was standing on the pew before us. All at once I felt a lift to my heart, a suffusion of joy, and I knew God was there with us.
That was 40 years ago. That feeling or vision has never reoccurred, but it is vivid and still real. Perhaps an opening into another world.
Happy Holidays from the intrepid Grand River explorers, Joe and Tom Neely; our journey will resume soon.
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We always take the river’s side: Industry and Big Agriculture have plenty of friends already.
Beautiful song by Van Morrison here, beautiful winter river scenes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAYuG1BlBmE&start_radio=1&list=RDMMiAYuG1BlBmE