With the exception of one year that we traveled to the cold Northeast to visit my family, we have spent every Christmas in Florida for the last decade. Every Christmas Eve, we head over to Joe’s parent’s house and meet up with his mother’s side of the family. We all have a chance to chat and catch up with each other, eat an outrageous amount of delicious homemade Italian food and open gifts.
A few years ago, Joe’s uncle surprised us all with a new tradition – the bag of coal. He began by presenting the bag of goal to someone for something “naughty” that they did that year and the following year, that person would then present the bag of coal to a new recipient. The reasons for being given the coal have varied each year from sports teams losing to accidentally running over a sprinkler and breaking it.
Last year, Joe was presented with the coal. We chatted about it briefly but then I didn’t think about it again. When we arrived for dinner this past Christmas Eve, I had a moment of panic that we had forgotten the coal! I asked Joe if he remembered it and his eyes got wide and he shrugged his shoulders. Eek! Well, maybe nobody will remember and we can bring it tomorrow? I thought to myself. Oops!
After all the gifts were open, I was sitting on the floor playing with Jacob’s new keyboard. As he made music, Joe asked everyone to come into the room so he could give away the coal. Surprised, I looked up as Joe picked up the bag, which had been hidden deep under the tree, and handed it to me. The entire room went quiet as I reached out and took it from him.
I looked inside. There was a small, glass jar with a cork top. Next to it sat a rolled up piece of paper that was tied with twine. I pulled the jar out first. The words Phoenix Tears were written across the middle and there was, what appeared to be, shredded twine inside. I looked at my husband, confused. He simply smiled.
I reached in and pulled out the rolled up paper. I removed the twine and unrolled it, Jacob’s music continuing in my lap. The paper read:
In this bottle you will find the nest of a Phoenix, which has been soaked in his tears. The Phoenix rises from the ashes of an extreme flame and is the symbol of strength. Although you cannot see him, he is always with you and his tear-soaked nest is his gift to you. When the coal from this bag burned, the Phoenix left you his tears to always remember that even when the most destructive fire burns, an amazing transformation takes place. The coal was the fuel that helped the fire to burn and the Phoenix is what emerged from the devastation. You have been able to slowly extinguish the flame that is attacking you and the transformation you are experiencing is a powerful one. I know the amazing and beautiful person you are transforming into will be just as amazing as the Phoenix, who left you these tears and nest. You are my and Jacob’s Phoenix. You are amazing and I thank every day we have with you.
As I retype my husband’s words here, I am again crying. My husband is a man who loves to chat but is not a fan of writing…yet his words to me are powerful and beyond beautiful.
As I prepare my thoughts and my questions for the surgeon tomorrow, my husband’s words fill my head. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve him and his love but I am so incredibly thankful for all of it.