A Merry Christmas

The days before Christmas were a marathon of cooking. I learned how to make eggnog without refined sugar and tried out a new recipe for cream of celery soup. Macaroni and cheese and sweet potato pie are traditions for us on Christmas. I made all of our favorites and everything turned out just right. I also made a conscious decision to relax my no-sugar-no-flour regimen for one glorious day (which turned into two because of leftovers) and I am feeling dim but not in danger. We also took a two-mile walk along the river this morning – as if that could undo the gluten and glucose intake. I, however, do not feel a smidgen of guilt. One day a year, and we blow it. YEA.

My daughter and granddaughter drove five hours from New York to come to me, and my daughter who lives in Washington, D.C. did the same – a two hour trip. We talked on our smart phones face to face with my daughter and granddaughter who live in Los Angeles. My daughters make such an effort to be with me at Christmas. I am so blessed.

Today (Saturday) was a day of concentrated un-work, and now that it is nighttime and my Washington kid has gone home, my New York kids are in the next room looking at television, all snuggled up in bed. Because my time with them is so precious, I’m going to give myself a break and go join them. So goodnight, dear friends. I hope your Christmas was as lovely, as warm, and as full of love as mine was. Love is, after all, what Christmas is all about.


Christmas tree

One of the fondest memories I have of Christmas isn’t even my memory. It’s my mother’s. She told it to me when I was old enough to know. It was of a Christmas long ago. And Emma.

Emma was my doll. I loved Emma. That much I remember. I named her Emma, although nobody (including me) could figure out why, or where I’d heard the name.

Emma was never out of my sight, never out of my arms. Emma was loved so fiercely that she began to wear out. She was one of those old fashioned dolls with a wooden head and neck tucked into a soft, stuffed torso with little wooden arms and little wooden legs that could move. You could bend her legs to sit her down. I know she sounds like one of those dolls you see on horror shows nowadays, but when I was young (a long time ago), dolls like Emma were de rigueur, meaning they were all pretty much like that. Emma had bright glassy eyes with eyelashes in her little wooden head that would shut when you laid her down, and her little mouth was painted red. If you looked closely enough, you could see two little white teeth showing between her lips. I remember painting Emma’s fingernails with my mother’s nail polish. Her hair was also painted on (light brown with curls in front), but I didn’t notice it much, since Emma always wore a bonnet.

This isn’t a story about Emma so much as it is about how much my mother loved me. She loved me so much she stole Emma.

That Christmas Eve, when I finally went to sleep (the only time Emma wasn’t in my clutches), my mother stole Emma, took her downstairs and proceeded to make her over. We weren’t exactly poor, but we didn’t have much money. My father supported us on a cop’s salary, but we lived in our own house and always had what we needed. My mother’s plan was to disguise Emma as a new doll, since she couldn’t afford to buy one. Unbeknownst to me, she had bought a pretty new dress for Emma, a coat, and underwear (!), socks, and little paper shoes at Woolworth’s Five and Ten Cent Store on Columbia Avenue. (You young people look it up.) She even made Emma hair out of yarn (my mother was clever), and tied a brand new bonnet under her chin. She renewed Emma’s cracked lips with paint and placed her under the Christmas tree. The next morning, as she told it, she couldn’t wait for me to come down and see the “new” doll Santa had brought me.

I do remember the excitement of those Christmas mornings, smelling my mother’s coffee, waiting impatiently for my parents to tell me it was okay to come down. I’d wait at the top of the stairs while they turned on the tree lights and position themselves so that they could see my reaction to the magic of the tree and the gifts.

“You can come down now,” my mother called. She was excited, expectant. She’d done a grand job. I ran into the living room and stopped in my tracks. There she was, sitting under the tree, beautiful and new. My eyes grew wide, and I looked at my mother, a big, open smile on my face. “Don’t Emma look SWEET,” I screamed joyfully. I don’t know how long my mother and father laughed, but that moment, that wonderful, precious moment, was talked about for years and years. I never wanted a new doll. I just wanted Emma. And I would have known my Emma anywhere. And somehow, my mother had made it all happen.

All those years ago, and still I remember my mother telling that story, and how I felt when she told it. I felt loved. I always felt loved. Our family wasn’t perfect, by any means. But my mother and father were stalwart and kind. They opened their hearts and home to family and strangers alike. Always, there was an aunt or an uncle living with us until they could “get on their feet.” At any moment, my mother’s table would be set with an extra place for a neighbor down on his luck, a cousin who just “happened” to ring the doorbell at dinnertime, or a couple of tired cops just off duty and still in their uniforms. And, as generous people everywhere know, there was always enough.

And so I remember them this Christmas. Merry Christmas, Mama and Daddy. Thanks for the love. And the memories. And Emma.


Full disclosure:  This is not Emma, but this is how she looked.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. You may find it on http://www.Amazon.com.

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There Is a Light in the World


I started this blog to let my friends know that I was about to publish a book. After some forty-two blog entries, most of which were not about my book, I’ve decided to return to it. Because it’s close to Christmas. And because I want to convey, to those who have read the book (so that they will recall), and to those who have not, what my son Eddie taught me.


From The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide:

Chapter 3

CHRISTMAS IS CRUEL. It comes three months after Eddie’s death. It will be here in a week. Harold (my ex-husband) calls to discuss Christmas for the girls, who will be home for the holidays.

“It should be as normal as possible,” he is saying. “We ought to have dinner here, with a tree and decorations.”
“A tree?” I scream. This is unbelievable. “A tree?” I lose it. I am crying and angry. “Are you crazy?” The pain shoots out of my voice. “There will be no more Christmases. Not in this lifetime. I can’t believe you’re thinking about decorations!” I scream at him. And I say it again: “Are you crazy?”

The thought of Christmas is like a kick in the stomach: a table with no place for Eddie. No gifts for Eddie. Christmas is a fresh, new brand of pain. God saw to that. The little glimmer of light from my encounter with Reverend Brown goes out, extinguished by decorations.
Harold starts to say something when I hear a loud crash in the hallway.
“Wait,” I say. “I heard a noise in the hallway.”
“Go look, he says, “I’ll stay on the line.”

There is nothing in the hallway. I open the coat closet. Several boxes have fallen from the shelf onto the floor. Last year’s Christmas decorations. There aren’t many boxes, just a few: a single person’s Christmas decorations. I open one box of glass ornaments, then another. Nothing is broken.
“I hear you, Eddie,” I whisper, “I hear you.”
I am shaking when I return to the phone. Harold tries to rationalize what has happened. Rumbling trucks going by on my downtown street must have shaken the boxes off the shelf, he tells me.
“Then why has nothing else fallen?” I say.
We will have a tree.


That was the beginning of my journey. That first Christmas was a disaster, even with the tree. But, in the years that followed, I kept stringing lights and decorating, mostly for my daughters. Eventually, I came to do it because I realized that I had to add light to my corner of the world. Things are happening these days that give rise to darkness and fear, but I will not dwell there. I used to live there, and I’m not going back. Now I have a choice. I choose to turn toward the light, and to add to it, if I can. Maybe that was what Eddie was leading me to, all those years ago.

I love this quote by Richard Attenborough. It has been associated with Mother Teresa, but I know people to whom this could easily apply.  I have seen their light and healing spirits.

“There is a LIGHT in this world. A healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometime lose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

My best wishes to those who are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice.


Read: The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. It is available at http://www.Amazon.com. It might be the perfect Christmas present for someone who needs a little hope.

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Peace and Joy

I left Sedona wrapped in a warm, sunny blanket of peace and joy. I came back to a wet, dark night in Maryland and things started to go wrong as soon as I hit the ground. The clerk at the hotel near the airport (I didn’t want to drive two hours at night after landing so I’d decided to spend the night there) told me to wait for the shuttle at the wrong place. I waited and waited. No shuttle. Tired and cold, and after another couple of calls to the hotel (and another clerk), I moved to the right place and the shuttle and I finally found each other. The driver was angry and I wasn’t feeling too kindly myself. But I did something that was almost right. I told him it wasn’t his fault (suggesting that it was the CLERK’s fault – I could have left that out). I also gave him a generous tip. Let me not spread discord, I thought. I’d just completed a five-day intensive spiritual workshop at the Unity Church in Sedona and I was still feeling pretty light and not a little prideful about it. I was aware that no matter what was going on in the world, I was responsible for my thoughts and the vibes I was sending out. We all are connected and our energy is transferable. Let peace begin with me, I had been taught. The driver took the tip and from the look on his face, none of my “positive energy” transferred. Ah well, back to the real world.

But is it? Or is it the world that I am creating? If everything in this world is an illusion (with God the only reality), then the illusion I am living in is the one I perceive. That’s what I’ve learned. The spiritual path is not an easy one. It requires constant work. I have to recreate my world every few minutes. The peaceful, loving one lasts only so long.

I had been so filled with peace and positive thoughts in Sedona. For example, I discovered a group that meets at the Unity Church for parents whose children have died. Is this group a home for my book, The Messenger, and for parents who, like me, have suffered the ultimate loss? Perhaps, when I come to live there, I can be of service. Perhaps that is why I am called there. This was significant for me; the thought of it filled me with hope and possibilities. Is there anyone who doesn’t delight at the road opening up before them?

And then came today, when nothing went right. I took down two less than perfect suitcases from the attic, cleaned them, filled them with two old winter coats (still good, of course) and other warm clothes, and loaded them into my car to take them to the mission on the main street of my little town. I rang the bell in the back (as I usually do) and opened my trunk, preparing to hand over the suitcases. A woman came to the door with reindeer horns on her head (her Christmas hat) and told me not too nicely that they “didn’t accept donations after one o’clock on Saturdays.” I looked at my watch. It was 1:20. WHAT? I thought. WAIT! But by this time, she had shut the door, leaving me in the alleyway with my open trunk. WHO TURNS DOWN DONATIONS? I’m thinking. Two other donation sites (you know, the ones with the big yellow boxes) warned me not to leave anything but donations in bags. Was I annoyed? What do you think? On the way home, I saw No Parking signs and port-a-potties indicating the Christmas parade that was to take place this evening. I’d be locked in my house again. (Remember the Iron Man race?) Nothing happens here, it seems, that doesn’t shut me in or out of my street.

Back home, deciding grumpily that I’d remain inside forever, I nevertheless tried to do something else useful. I’d register online with the power company so that I’d eliminate my paper bills. I’M STILL TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING HERE, GOD, I’m thinking. I went through their convoluted process (including giving them my mother’s maiden name), and as soon as I got to the end, the screen flashed a message telling me there had been an error on the page and that I’d have to go back to the beginning – which was blank when I got there, of course. Filled it out again. This time, it claimed that I had not read the silly scroll right – you know, that thing that proves that you’re not a robot? The third time, it claimed that my account number belonged to somebody else. I threw my paper bill on the floor. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON TODAY, anyway?’

And then, something clicked. I had to laugh. If I believe all the stuff I say I believe, then this is pretty funny. I know the spiritual path is work. I know that staying with the peace of my soul is not easy. But knowing isn’t enough. The leader of the workshop in Sedona told us this would happen. Whatever we think we know will disappear if we don’t practice it. And so…I set myself up, just to see if I could remember how to return to the Peace that underlies everything. Now I’m laughing, saying “Okay. I get it, God. DUH.” Everything is exactly as it was when I was on Cloud Nine, in the sunny warmth of spirituality and the company of other like-minded seekers. Peace was always there. Nothing changed but my perception. Now that my roadblocks have been duly noted and I realize that I put them there so that I might learn  – no practice – returning to serenity, I might do something really useful. I might put on a warm coat and go see the parade, or string some Christmas lights, and end my day with joy and peace. I can do that. It is, after all, my birthright.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. It can be obtained at http://www.Amazon.com.   Give it to a friend for Christmas.

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