I don’t mean to sound gloomy, but these days after Christmas often make me think of death. They always have.

But I’ve been more aware of life’s fleeting, precious character in recent years. My mother died three years ago on January 3rd, and she labored under hospice care during this normally festive week.

So now, for me, the twelve days of Christmas have an exquisitely melancholy luster. Initially, this was upsetting, but now I see the silver lining. In the sadness, there is something shining.

My mother had experienced a really bad stroke. She was 77. There was no coming back. And she’d already almost died once in the hosptial. I am grateful that, thanks to hospice care, Mom got to die quietly in her own bed.

But here’s what was wonderful about the night of her passing: When the hospice people dressed her body for the coroner, they placed an afghan blanket on her. It was just an old throw Mom kept around, but woven into this blanket were the words of the 23rd Psalm.

When the coroner came in at around eight that evening, he took Mom’s body and left the blanket folded at the bottom of the bed. Four hours later, I went to sleep in a twin bed in the same room where my mother had died. I lay down and had a good cry.

But when I casually placed that 23rd Psalm blanket over me, to my surprise the blanket began to pop and radiate a very specific energy. Since I had not been looking for a “big experience,” I actually pulled the blanket down and experimented with feeling where the sparkling, popping energy was. It was definitely IN the blanket–and it seemed to snap in little sparkles on the surface of my skin.

I have some training in Reiki–a method of divine healing through the hands. And since that training, I have been more aware of the existence of this sort of energy. But this popping sensation, I think, would have been noticed by anyone. It was very obvious. What was it? Pure life force, I guess. I don’t think it was motherly love. It didn’t seem like something being given specifically to me. It had an odd neutrality to it. It wasn’t sentimental. But it was real. That’s what I’m telling you.

The Reverend Laurie Sue Brockway says that “when the doors of heaven open and your loved one passes through, the energies of heaven come and kiss those left behind when they are quiet enough to be open to that kind of experience.”

Post your own thoughts on this subject. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll have more ideas on how the old yields to the new as we direct our attention to 2006.

More from Beliefnet and our partners