I'm sitting on the screen porch and I hear the nearby church bells playing "I wish you a Merry Christmas". It's so beautiful! So strange (and sad) that I've lived here for 12 years and never noticed the bells playing Christmas music. That is the second time today that I've heard them. This is the first year of my 41 years on this Earth that I TRULY appreciate the real meaning of Christmas. I think we all know what it's supposed to be about but we get so wrapped up in the stress of it all. I've been guilty of that my entire life. I saw a post on someone's FB page earlier asking what everyone is grateful for this year. Naturally, I'm grateful for my family. I'm one lucky girl!!! I get to stay home and pursue my dreams with total support from my sweet son and totally devoted husband. We are all healthy and have everything we need. I'm always thankful for those things. But, this year, I'm especially grateful for the spiritual awakening that has happened within me since my father's passing. The only way I know how to describe it is it was like looking through hazy glasses and then suddenly they are clean and everything looks so much clearer and more pure. My senses are so acute now. I hear and see things I never would have noticed before. When I hear those bells playing, "I wish you a Merry Christmas", somehow I KNOW that's my daddy telling me he's still here with me and that he's okay and he loves me and as he always told me, "It'll be okay". I know that sounds hokey but it's a "feeling" I get. I don't know how to explain it. I can just be going about my business and something stops me in my tracks. Almost like someone grabs me by the collar and says, "STOP!". (if you don't believe that, as I was typing this post I saw my cell phone light up and it said "receiving message". Took a while but a text came through from April..... a girl I met through FB who lives in Maine. I've never met her in person but she has become a good friend via telephone conversations. Her text was simply this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NJqUN9TClM&feature=youtu.be . A song titled "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry. That was TOTALLY random and to say that it sent shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes doesn't even begin to describe my reaction to it. I've never heard this song before but in the lyrics at the end of the song it says "funny how when you're dead people start listening". WOW is all I can say right now!) The greatest gift my father ever gave me was his death. As strange as that sounds, the dying process is much like a birth. As painful as it was to watch, now that I know he's made his journey and he's at peace in a place more beautiful than you or I could ever imagine, I can look back on it now and realize how blessed I was to witness his crossing over to be with our Father. I wouldn't take ANYTHING for the days and nights I sat by his bedside as he was making his way to Heaven. NOW, I get the true meaning of Christmas and I am forever changed for the better. Thank you Daddy! May you have the most beautiful Christmas at the table with Jesus in God's house! May you sing and dance with angels and enjoy your hard earned peace and comfort in the company of family and friends who went before you. "I wish you a Merry Christmas" too Daddy and I hear you loudly and clearly! As always, you are making sure I'm okay and I truly am okay now. I will NEVER stop missing you but I'm much better than you left me. You are taking care of me now just as you always did. Making sure my heart is taken care of. You are a remarkable man and your gentle and kind heart lives on. I feel it with me every day! So, you see, through this past year and all I've experienced I not only know that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ...... now I FEEL it. It feels pretty awesome!!!!!