The snow fell out of a dark, cold December sky and settled quietly onto the frozen ground. It continued in earnest throughout the frigid night turning the brown Maine landscape into a snowy winter wonderland. We awoke to the raw beauty of a pure white panorama – untouched and awaiting our imprint – much like the new year ahead of us.
After a lazy breakfast in front of the fire, our extended family decided to take a hike through a beautiful local preserve which hugged the ocean coastline. As we approached the trail I could tell that the walking would be difficult due to the voluminous snowfall. I decided to give it a try, intent on pushing through the nagging pain. The walking was tough but the views were incredible so I reasoned that all pain was worth it. Although I was at the back of our pack, I managed to stay within earshot of the group and enjoy the afternoon escape.
As we approached the half way point, I noticed a snowy Christmas wreath atop a memorial which faced the open ocean. I recalled seeing this memorial before – on an easier summer walk with my sister in law – but was struck that someone had taken the trouble to hike out in winter to put a wreath in place. With all the snow, it was hard to read the inscription, but I could see enough to know the intended purpose. A local man had passed away a few years ago and had evidently been a frequent traveler along these trails. It read that he cherished the ocean views and appreciated the simple beauty of the spectacular Maine coast. I believe that his family probably wanted all who passed by to pause awhile and consider what this man had experienced as the most important things in life – beauty, goodness and simplicity. Perhaps this memorial was their way of inviting us to follow in his impressionable footsteps? Since I didn’t know him, I can only surmise that he must have been quite special for his family to trudge through the Maine snowfall to lay a wreath upon his memorial in the middle of winter.
As we embark upon a new year – a new decade even – I find myself reflecting on the life of someone that I did know very well. Like the fellow from the memorial walk, my mom valued all things beautiful, good and true. Family was her treasure and she lived in a way which let everyone know what truly mattered to her. She was a woman filled with the love of God and she shared that love willingly and joyfully with all whom she came into contact with. No matter what state of life one was in, you always felt better after an encounter with Joanie. She had a way of making you feel known, valued and special – something quite rare in this busy, hectic world. In fact, on the back of her memorial stone we have carved the words of Saint Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” This sentiment aptly describes the way one felt after an experience with my incredible mom.
In this new year of 2020, I find myself thinking about my own impact in the world. How do I want to be known or remembered? I guess the answer is quite clear – I want to follow in the footsteps of my beautiful mom and be remembered as a woman of love, hope, kindness, faith and joy. I want to live purposefully each day giving thanks to God for the many gifts which he has bestowed upon me and my family. Perhaps this is how the man from the memorial walk wanted to be remembered too? On his stone, his family didn’t write anything about the hugeness of his house, the immensity of his wallet or the fanciness of his car. They didn’t even note his worldly honors or glories, rather they wanted all who passed by the trail to know that he was a person who appreciated the simple beauty of God’s world and that he took time to pause awhile in gratitude for what really mattered most in life. I think this is my inspiration for 2020. What’s yours?