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  • Stephanie Lemmo

Finding Peace in the Simple Things

Burlap Nativity Set, Made by Mom in 1987

This will be our first Christmas without my mother physically present on this earth. The past few Christmases she was absent from celebrations in our home as we were unable to remove her from her care environment. Every passing year, for nearly 2 decades, brought new adjustments, new normals, new ways of celebrating, but even though the last few years she lived with end stage dementia, my mother was still present. She was still "mom" and still here.

My kids often mention that nana is an angel. "Mama, she's everywhere, in our hearts and right in front of us!". Of course, I find comfort in knowing that they are absolutely right. I'm truly in awe of a child's intuitive power, far more in touch with raw emotions, spiritual connections and the mysterious energy of the universe than us adults. (I have a great story on this - but perhaps I'll save that for another time).

As we are now nearing my mother's one year anniversary and approaching Christmas, I wasn't sure if I'd feel the tremendous void that grief throws us into over and over again, or if I'd feel peace and wholeness from the journey we've traveled.

One of the things that helped my sanity and inspired us throughout the covid school closure was embarking on elaborate craft projects with my kids. So, in an effort to make their holiday season brighter, memorable, more exciting, I decided that, together, we would imagine and create a world for their beloved Christmas elves (Elf on the Shelf), Snowy Flower and her little brother Ginger. And so we did using cardboard boxes, feathers, pampas grass, art canvases, sticks, egg cartons, food packaging, wrapping paper and any other random craft supplies and repurposed materials we could scrounge from our ever growing craft closet.

The Elves' Living Room

Relaxing in the tub

Elf Hot Chocolate Cafe

It was during this process that I had a very comforting revelation about how we remember and relive moments with our loved ones who have passed. Through our actions, by doing the simple things a loved one so passionately enjoyed, or something we enjoyed doing together, they return to us. Through brainstorming and great ideas, ripping apart cardboard and hot glue on fingers, through creating and being proud of our creations, my mother was very much present again. She reminded me that this Christmas would be no different.

For those of you who never knew my effervescent and wildly creative mother, she was insanely skilled in everything from interior design, home renovations (taught herself!), award-winning landscaping, applied arts and crafting. She truly was a Renaissance woman. One thing she absolutely loved was Christmas crafting. It was her "thing" that catapulted her into Christmas spirit every season. Her crafting occasionally turned into a side business and quite the production! Her cherished Christmas masterpieces around my home represent her creative spirit, her legacy and a source of inspiration for my own children.

To those who are experiencing the void of a loved one no longer with us, or perhaps not within hugging reach this holiday season - or any other season - try to find comfort and peace by doing the simple things they loved or you loved doing together. A hug is irreplaceable, grief may never really leave us, but love does mysteriously make itself known in many wonderful ways.

Merry Christmas Mom! Merry Christmas Everyone!

In addition to the Burlap Nativity Scene above, made by my mom in 1987, below are some other photos of her Christmas creations, all hand crafted and hand sewn. The Santas were made in 1995-1997, she made over 100 of them! The Carollers were made in 1996-1997 and made around 30.

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