My nani was, and forever will be, an example of the spirit of Christmas.
When I lived in San Diego near Nani and Papa, Christmas celebrations were always grand. Relatives would come from all over the country. My cousins and I would wait patiently as we wolfed down our mandatory eggs and hot chocolate before we could even think about opening our overflowing stockings and presents that seemed to fill the room.
I realized it wasn't Santa behind all of the gifts and wrapping paper, and noticed how Nani watched, holding her camer, and smiled from head to toe as our faces lit up with delight at the presents we received. It took me a while longer to realize why she was so happy, even though she received so few presents herself. But I finally saw that it wasn't the receiving of material gifts that brought pure joy to her eyes, but the gift of seeing the joy in others' faces because of something she'd given.
When Nani passed on over six years ago, it was very hard for me. I missed her smile and laughter, and especially the little twinkle in her happy eyes. The night of her unexpected passing, my family and I went to sit down at a lake and watch the stars. As I tried to understand what had happened, my older brother told me that I didn't have to be sad, because Nani would always be in her right place, safe and loved by God. He expanded a little on Mary Baker Eddy's idea in her book Science and Health, which states, "...progress is the law of God..." (p. 233). That meant that Nani could take only steps of progress even though I couldn't see her.
It was hard for me to understand, and I couldn't get away from the feeling that Nani had been taken away from me and that she wasn't ready to go. It took me a while to see that it was my own longing for her that clouded my ability to see that she really was OK and I didn't have to be sad. Still, I was very worried that Christmases would never be the same.
Something that really helped me was the idea that spiritual qualities aren't limited to one person. Mrs. Eddy's description of God in the Glossary of Science and Health really supports this idea: "The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence" (p. 587).
The idea that God is the eternal expression of all of those qualities, and that we are all a reflection of that perfection, helped me see that I could find the loving qualities that Nani expressed in other people around me, and that I myself could express the qualities I loved in her. For example, I will never forget her unconditional love for each of us and her smile. She brought an amazing sense of joy and harmony to our family every single day. When I started to see that I could honor her by living this way, it was easier to handle her passing.
Now, Christmas is different. There may be fewer presents and no mandatory eggs and hot chocolate, but I always take that day to remember what Nani brought to others. Since then, it has been my wish to walk in her footsteps, expressing the true spirit of Christmas.
Ariana Dale will be graduating from school in the spring. She loves water sports, including water polo and swimming.
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