The holidays are a particularly difficult time for many families who are yearning for their loved ones, no matter how long they have been gone.

My grandmother, Georgiana, out-lived my grandfather, Arsene, by 25 years.  Not a day went by without her missing him.  Often, we would visit her. She was a warm and loving person with calm blue eyes who gave birth to 17 children.  She never spoke about how difficult it was raising so many, but rather looked at her life as a blessing, filled with many challenges only faith, hope and love could conquer.

My grandmother kept the holidays holy with church services and special devotions for the living and the dead.

She would remind us that the true meaning of Thanksgiving was in giving and that the Pilgrims acknowledged everything we have is a gift from God, even our tribulations. Their Thanksgiving tradition was established to thank God for His blessings and His grace.

Christmas, my grandmother would say, was a commemoration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth to a young maiden from Galilee.  She always pursued a spiritual reflection with us rather than dwell on how commercialized the holidays had become.

I was always struck by the flowery scent and soft glow of the votive candles my grandmother would light for those she missed, some were for her very own children.  She would take small photographs, cracked and worn through years of touch, pressing them close to her heart.  After placing them carefully on top of her Colonial bureau covered with a crocheted lace doily, she would light each candle and bow her head in silent prayer.

It was a solemn ritual, profound and moving.  With courage and strength, she would raise her head and smile. She was remembering those indelible footprints each one made and placed in her heart forevermore.

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Yvonne Lancaster

Born in Worcester, MA, Yvonne is a former newspaper columnist and is the recipient of numerous writing awards from United Press International, Massachusetts Press Association and New England Press Association for her column From the Heart. Currently, she writes short stories, poetry and is a still life painter. She is co-author of Every Step of the Way: How Four Mother’s Coped with Child Loss (2006) and From the Heart, Sketches from Life (1985). She was named Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women of America. She is currently working on her first novel. Her website is

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