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Trying to Keep Our Parents Alive

Do you ever feel like a dead loved one is near? I realized a distinct intensity to the feeling this Christmastime. It was without explanation, and then in less than 24 hours, I understood why.

I don’t believe in visitations from the dead, nor should we seek them out. On the other hand, I believe loved ones in heaven may occasionally see what is going on down here. They see us.

Obviously, we don’t see them, but we try to keep them alive and present in this world. This is never more evident than at Christmas.parentsfudgephoto

We make their recipes – “like grandma used to make” – we follow traditions in their memory, wear their clothes or their jewelry, linger in spaces they occupied, and tell stories about them.

One of the ways I try to keep my parents alive is by decorating my tree with their ornaments. I’ve got a glass ornament of a mailbox – my dad’s second profession was as a mail carrier – and silvery pinecones caked in decades-old “snow.” They dangle beside my own shiny ornaments.

I also go to my parents’ house each Christmas Eve. It’s like spending time with them, or at least it is the closest approximation. We always celebrated on Christmas Eve when I was a kid, and Dec. 24th is still the real Christmas for me.

This will be the ninth Christmas Eve to go to their unoccupied house, put their albums of carols on the turntable and work on cleaning out the place. It apparently will also be my last.

I received a telephone call Saturday from a Realtor friend who’d connected me with an investor. On Friday, I’d showed them the house, which wasn’t even officially on sale. But on Saturday, the investor advanced an offer.


My parents home, where I grew up. I kept the house but didn’t move in after Mom died July 18, 2009.

I got off the phone, knelt at the base of my Christmas tree and buried my face in the carpet. I’d known the day was coming, but it was jarring when it did. The offer came so quickly.

“I love you so much! I love you so much! I love you so much!”

I repeated it like a comforting mantra as I worked out this new grief. Yes, letting go of the house is a grief, too. It’s losing a piece of my parents, a very big piece. In the absence of my folks, the house has been my safe place. My sanctuary.

I’m not sure if we will accept the offer, or if the investor will accept our terms, but I feel that my grief journey has been leading me up to this point. God has been getting me ready, and feeling that my parents are especially near me right now helps. I think they are saying it’s OK to let go. That it’s OK to move forward, even though they expected me in life to move in after their deaths.

Of course, I will never let go of them. They will be alive in my life one way or the other, with or without the house, for as long as I live. And someday I will see them again because God will do what I cannot do. My efforts to keep my parents alive are meager compared to his resurrection power. In his mercy, he finds ways to remind me they aren’t so far away, in a place where it’s Christmas every day.

Have you ever felt like a deceased loved one is near? What triggers the connection? What measures do you take to foster the feeling of his or her presence in your life?


Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.






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