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Tidings Of Comfort and Joy [Dec. 17th, 2014|09:34 pm]
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I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
--Walt Whitman

It was when our mutual friend Katrina Kenison introduced me to Amy VanEchaute's blog, My Path With Stars Bestrewn, that the seeds of a friendship were planted. In a later entry, “While My Pretty One Sleeps," Amy wrote a gorgeous tribute to her beloved Momma, who seemed to me the stuff of fairy tales. At once magical and ephemeral, Amy's Momma reminded me of my sweet Nana—not mirror images, mind you, but similar in all the places where light exists and love makes itself manifest in the world.

Amy's Momma with Maymer, 1973

My Nana, early 1970s

Though we are separated by distance—1,900 miles, more or less—my subsequent conversations with Amy brought us closer. Over time, I came to realize just how much we have in common. Our personalities are uniquely our own, but we approach the world with a shared sense of wide-eyed wonderment, are attuned to music about Mother Earth and her creations, and words that whisper to us the wisdom of Transcendentalists, matriarchs, and the Eternal All-knowing.

A few weeks ago, when Amy posted a picture of the Victorian-style wreath she’d created as a Christmastime homage to her mother, I wished aloud for a memorial spot where I could visit Nana. Amy expressed similar regrets about her own grandmother. As fate would have it, “Maymer” is buried in a cemetery less than nine (count 'em, 9!) miles from my house.

Right then I realized that we’d ventured into that serendipitous space where wishes are sometimes granted, the realm of possibility where you don’t dare blink, lest you miss all the fun and magic. “I’ll make her a wreath,” I heard myself say, “I’ll find Maymer’s grave and lay it there for you.”

Get this: I’d never made a wreath for a loved one before, much less a total stranger! So what? My inner voice asked. I answered the challenge by grabbing my car keys and heading to Michaels. Not for me, something purely decorative…I'd pull together thematic elements! The circular shape would speak of unity—the joining of hands across the miles, a warm embrace in absentia. And the sturdy evergreens would represent our grandmothers’ character: strong women who endured hard times without complaint, who embroidered the fanciful into the everyday, and who sowed seeds of grace in every word and deed.


Behold! My first-ever homemade bow! See the tiny angel? She represents Maymer and Nana, spiritual giants of short stature. In the curve adjacent to the gilt-edged bow, I placed creamy white roses, as fair as our grandmothers’ porcelain complexions.


Here and there, I scattered various gifts of earth and sky, to help illustrate the underlying meaning of this circle: Hope, that thing with feathers; pinecones that represent growth and renewal; a sprig of cedar that symbolizes strength and healing; holly that speaks of loving sacrifice; and twining ivy, to depict the precious memories that cling to the very fabric of our being.


On these scrolls are written the songs of our heart: "Deep Peace" for Maymer, and “His Eye is on The Sparrow” for Nana. I tied them together with a tussie-mussie of forget-me-nots, tiny blue flowers that grew prolific in Maymer’s garden and inspired Amy’s momma to write this gorgeous haiku:

Like my mother’s eyes
Twinkling from the garden path
Blue forget-me-nots.
©Marjorie Neighbour, 1982


I then clipped two candles on the upper right corner, humming as I placed them among the greenery: These little lights of ours, I’m gonna let ‘em shine… Sprigs of mistletoe are scattered at the base of the candles, for who deserves bunches of kisses more than a beloved grandmother?


A chubby bird hovers mid-air, a shimmery gold confection that catches the sunlight with its feathers. Into its bosom, I tucked a pale pink rose from my backyard garden—a secret treasure of the sort that I suspect Nana and Maymer loved best. Over time the petals will fade and crumble, but as with our most cherished memories, their essence will remain.


Here’s how my finished wreath looked, lovingly placed as it was near the cedar tree where Maymer rests.


I discovered nearby yet another wreath, created with bougainvillea flowers by Mother Nature herself! It’s a very unusual arrangement, which makes me wonder if I was meant to stumble upon it in my walk across the grounds.  And just beyond the reach of my camera, a songbird flew from tree to tree, chirping when it landed but never lighting long enough for me to get a clear glimpse of it. Felt more than seen, it was identifiable only through the sweetness of its song. “Like the soul,” Amy suggests to me later.

Sunset at the cemetery

This wreath is truly a gift of the heart and of this season. It honors the circle of life, a miracle with no beginning or end, and brings tidings of comfort and joy to both the giver and recipient. In the same way that the Winter Solstice turns back the dark by lengthening the days, this gift has swaddled us in warmth and light—new friends who feel as if we’ve known each other forever, pulled by our grandmothers into a wordless embrace that is nothing less than divine.

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[User Picture]From: patty1943
2014-12-18 03:05 pm (UTC)
Lovely post. Merry Christmas my friend.
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:34 pm (UTC)
Merry Christmas to you, too. I am grateful everyday for the gift of our friendship.
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[User Picture]From: kellyrfineman
2014-12-18 03:11 pm (UTC)
What a lovely wreath, and a lovely post, too. So sweet of you to do that, and how wonderful to have such a connection. (Perhaps you ought to start making inspirational wreaths?) Thanks, too, for "introducing" me to Amy online. She's wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:37 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I'd have the creative power to make "inspirational wreaths" on a regular basis, but I was certainly moved by this experience. SO glad you connected with Amy. You're amazing women, both of you, and I'm so lucky to be your friend!
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[User Picture]From: jamarattigan
2014-12-18 03:16 pm (UTC)
Loved this post so much, Melodye -- the story of "meeting" Amy and how quickly you bonded -- the serendipity of living so close to Maymer's burial site (!), and of course the beautiful, loving gesture of making a wreath and placing it.

The circular symbolism of the wreath reminds me of the lei -- it also speaks of an embrace, unity, and love everlasting. "A ring is round and has no end . . . " I remember loving that rhyme when I was little. :)

I love how you carefully selected all the elements for the wreath and how each has a special significance regarding both your Nana and Amy's Maymer. Also love Marjorie's haiku :).

Truly, this is what this season is all about. Spreading joy, unselfishly where we can, honoring those we have lost and continuing to celebrate their lives. You are such an inspiration. We need more people like you in the world with such a generous heart. :)

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[User Picture]From: Carol Federlin Baldwin
2014-12-18 03:31 pm (UTC)

your post

The wreath and the love and time that went into creating it and writing this post are beautiful. I'm also impressed how you can get around and do all of this with your bum foot! Carol Baldwin
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:08 pm (UTC)

Re: your post

It's as they say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." It wasn't easy by any means, but boy howdy, was it ever worth it!

Merry Christmas, dear Carol. Wishing you all the best that this moment, that all of 2015 has to offer. xo
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:42 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that about the lei, but now that you mention it, Jama... Amazing, isn't it, the way so many of our most cherished talismans & traditions find their refrain in other cultures?

Thank you for these kind words, which, of course, made me cry. (Happy tears, but still.) I'm awestruck, again and again, by the miracle of our friendship. I treasure it, and you!!!
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[User Picture]From: robinellen
2014-12-18 03:35 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, Melodye :)
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Robin. I really appreciate that you took time out of your busy Christmas preparations to read it. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family! xo
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[User Picture]From: olmue
2014-12-18 04:09 pm (UTC)
That was beautiful, Melodye! Funnily enough, I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking of my grandmother, who died when I was 9. I even got up and wrote down some memories of her (we didn't live close, but she did her best to make sure she still had a relationship with my sister and me). It seems that a need to honor one's grandmothers is in the air! And what a beautiful way for you to do that. I think that our loved ones who have passed on ARE close to us at certain times, watching over us and letting us know that they love us, too.
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:55 pm (UTC)
I've heard from so many people lately that they've also felt their beloved grandmothers' presence, more so now than ever...

I'm really glad that when you were awakened in the night by thoughts of your grandmother, you got up to wrote out the things you remember.Those memories are, to coin a phrase from Proverbs, "apples of gold in settings of silver."
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[User Picture]From: Tanya Dean
2014-12-18 04:47 pm (UTC)

Lovely tribute

There are gifts ... and there are gifts. What you've provided your friend is a gift beyond this world and across the miles. Well done, Melodye! It's beautiful in design, execution, and intent!
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Lovely tribute

Thank you so much, Tanya. I know you understand this experience, down to its very essence.
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[User Picture]From: boreal_owl
2014-12-18 05:05 pm (UTC)
What a thoughtful gift--full of beauty, symbolism (how very Melodye!), joy, and love. Thanks for sharing it with us. :-)

Merry Christmas!

Edited at 2014-12-18 05:06 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:59 pm (UTC)
Ha--"How very Melodye!" My husband says that, all the time. Variation: "It's a Melodye thing." :)

I'm so glad that you stopped by, and Echo, too. Smiling at you across the miles and wishing you the happiest of holidays. Our friendship means the world to me. xo
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[User Picture]From: lizjonesbooks
2014-12-18 05:17 pm (UTC)
Lovely!! All of it. <3
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, Liz! *The dabbler in me bows to the professional artist in you*

Merry Christmas, dear friend. What a wonderful ride it's been, and who the heck knows where we'll find ourselves next? :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-12-18 09:21 pm (UTC)


What a wonderful and beautifully-told story of connections and those small but real miracles that surprise and bring us peace! Yes, there are things meant to be, and how blessed we are when we are open to see them and to embrace them! - Elizabeth Massie
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Beautiful!

Thank you, Elizabeth. I'm remembering your generosity in making Circle of Caring bracelets as a way to help spread the word about DEAR BULLY, and your ongoing efforts to meet the needs of those less fortunate. How lucky am I, to have connected with someone as beautiful, inside and out, as you are. *sees and embraces you*
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[User Picture]From: jeannineatkins
2014-12-18 10:26 pm (UTC)
Every element of this touches my heart. The circle of the wreath is one of the parts I love most, though swags can also be lovely. I love the elements you chose, in a very Victorian like way: each part precious with meaning. You have brought me to the depths and heights of the season. Sending love back, without the just right words and pictures.
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:18 pm (UTC)
You know how it's said that "Like attracts like?" I truly feel that some of your Victorian, poetic leanings might've rubbed off on me. :) I appreciate (among MANY things about our friendship) that you've encouraged me to explore those parts of myself that came of having Nana in my life...in was in reading Borrowed Names that I started thinking about the broad and deep impact of our matriarchs, passed along to us through DNA and physical presence.

Love to you, Jeannine, at Christmastime and always. Our friendship is, well, everything, no words or pictures necessary. xo
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-12-18 11:09 pm (UTC)
This was just beautiful melodye. loved it, reminded me of my mom, that past in 93.
shes always with me. thanks for sharing. lovella
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:19 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad your mama stays with you, Lovella. I feel certain that your children and grandchildren feel blessed by your presence, too.

Love to you and yours, during the holidays and always. xo
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[User Picture]From: onegrapeshy
2014-12-19 01:36 am (UTC)
Positively beautiful, Melodye! The wreath, the story, the message...everything. So strange that I've been thinking of my own "Nana" almost non-stop for the past couple of days. Must be the season... xox
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, it must be the season. Although our tender-hearted, loving grandmothers are a welcome presence any time of year, aren't they?

Merry Christmas, my dear friend. I'm wishing for you all the best that this season offers, and am sending much love and manyhugs across the miles. xo
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[User Picture]From: Katrina Kenison
2014-12-19 01:57 pm (UTC)

such love

Melodye, Your story, and this gift from the heart, has brought light and love into these dark winter days. Amazing, the way, friendships don't depend on proximity anymore, the connections that mean the most to us are nurtured by words and deeds, shared visions, inspiration, and yes, love made visible where ever we are. This is surely my new favorite Christmas story. Blessings to you and sweet Amy. And I know grandmothers every where must be smiling!
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:33 pm (UTC)

Re: such love

Thank you, Katrina, for bringing us together. It was through your "Gift of An Ordinary Day" that our friendship began, took root and blossomed into something extraordinary. And now, because this piece is being published at Jennifer Pastiloff's Manifest-Station, our hope is that Maymer and Nana's remembrance wreath will even more people into the ever-widening circle of friendship.

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[User Picture]From: Amy Neighbour VanEchaute
2014-12-19 11:11 pm (UTC)


What more can I say here, my dear and thoughtful friend, that I have not already written to you here (https://mypathwithstarsbestrewn.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/tidings-of-comfort-and-joy/) or said to you in our countless tête-à-têtes, sharing stories and laughter and memories and tears? Only this: your name is music to my ears, and a song that will forever echo in my heart. Blessings and love and joy to you, Melodye - always and always, world without end. xox
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Postscript

Thank you for scattering stars along the path, dear Amy; hearts and flowers, too, and cherished memories...
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[User Picture]From: asakiyume
2014-12-20 04:41 pm (UTC)
You are *right* Melodye--I love this entry! I love the serendipity of your new friend's Maymer being buried so near you, and I love all the meaning you suffused your wreath with through the items you included on it (I love the hummingbird). An act of great generosity for a new friend--just wonderful.

And I love nature's own wreath, that glowing bougainvillea--and the final shot of the sun through the cemetery trees.

Thank you so very much for sharing this! Have a lovely, joy-filled Christmas!
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:40 pm (UTC)
I knew the hummingbird would speak to you, and all of Nature's gifts. So glad we share these sensibilities, and happy, too, that LiveJournal affords us a place to meet and share our stories.

I'll be switching over to WordPress soon, but not without notice. I hope we'll be able to keep the connection intact, regardless of platform.

Much love to you and yours this Christmas, and may 2015 bring you great tidings of comfort and joy.
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[User Picture]From: asakiyume
2014-12-27 12:48 am (UTC)
Merry merry Christmas to you too, and a joyful New Year ♥

And I most definitely will follow you when you make the move to Wordpress. I'll subscribe.
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[User Picture]From: amy koss
2014-12-20 05:07 pm (UTC)


What a sweet and lovely project and post. you are a gem and we are all lucky to know you. xoxo amy
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:45 pm (UTC)

Re: you

Thank you so much, Amy. Soon enough, my story-in-full will find its home. (Can I Get a Witness?) I'll never forget your encouraging words along the way, nor the inspiration I draw from your personal & professional example. xoxo
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