The Christmas after my mission I received an abundant stash of gifts from friends and family, but I can only remember one: It was a beautiful surprise from my mother. She had compiled a scrapbook of all the letters and photos from my mission. I had absolutely no idea she’d been working on it, could not even imagine the number of late-night hours she’d put into it without my knowing. But I was now leafing through a complete set of memories of my missionary experience, made tangible in this handmade folio. There was nothing “cute” about it -- no trendy cropping or die cuts or even colored backgrounds. My mom wasn’t that kind of mom, and this wasn’t that kind of scrapbook. But it was rich with memories, and with a kind of reverence. This was an unbelievable treasure. I was overwhelmed. This was the first time I realized what an amazing gift Remembrance could be.
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Fast-forward to Christmas 1992. I lost both my mother and my magic “Mrs. Santa Claus” grandmother that year. We’d been through the Rodney King riots, and a series of earthquakes and fires and mudslides in Los Angeles. Life felt like it pulled the rug right out from under me.
We went to Utah for Christmas so 1-year-old Josh could see his grandparents, and we could be nurtured by the security of Home. As we gathered around the tree at my in-laws’ house to open presents, no one could miss the stunningly-wrapped package tucked off to one side. It was enormous, and wrapped in the most gorgeous mauve foil adorned with a magnificent, multi-colored bow. There was even a little silver key tied on as an ornament. Jim, my father-in-law, always gives Bonnie the most stellar gifts (one year it was an ankle-length leather coat) and we couldn’t wait to see what was inside this box. Surely he’d outdone himself this year.
As the ribbons and paper flew and the squeals of delight rose up, there was no question people’s gift lists had been matched and spirits were high. Nearly every package had been opened, but the mystery box still remained. Jim went over to read the tag. “Charrette” he said. I’m sure everyone was shocked, but no one could have been struck with as much disbelief as I was. I felt like the girl in Grandma Winters’ Christmas story, when the “little rich girl” reaches for the big, beautiful package and the kind, older gentleman gently says, “Oh, no. That’s not for you, it’s for Cozette. Go ahead, Cozette. It’s yours. Go ahead and open it.”
So I carefully undid the beautiful ribbon and set the little silver key aside. I tried not to rip the shiny pink paper as I lifted the tape. And then I could not believe my eyes. (I’m trying hard not to bawl my eyes out just writing about this now.) It was a spray of flowers from my mother’s casket. Somehow Bonnie had managed to secure a representative sampling of blooms and taken them to a florist friend of hers who arranged them very artistically. They were framed in a beautiful glass box, along with the program from the funeral -- including the portrait I had drawn for the cover.
Remembrance. A most wonderful gift. At a time when I wanted to remember every little thing about my mother. Every little scrap of paper with her handwriting took on enormous significance now that she was gone. I wanted to surround myself with anything that reminded me of her. And here was something spectacular and meaningful to hang on my wall.
I still have the little silver key from that amazing package I opened 16 years ago. It reminds me that people I love found the key to my heart that year by going to extraordinary lengths to give me the gift of Remembrance. And I have never forgotten.
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I learned another great lesson about Remembrance that year. I learned that when we lose someone we love, any opportunity that allows us to remember them is an extraordinary gift. This gave me a whole new appreciation for the Sacrament...a weekly ordinance designed to help us remember Someone we love very deeply. (“That we may always remember Him, that we may have His spirit to be with us...”) That year I realized that that remembrance, too (not unlike Christmas) is a gift from a loving Father. And I cherished it like never before.