Last night I got the most incredible Christmas gift. It came in an email from a woman I do not know. I can't stop crying. I've edited this to eliminate personal information but this is what she wrote:
"This is going to sound sad, but don't be sad for me because you actually gave me my Christmas back. My Mom loved Christmas and always made it so special for us. My dad had passed away in 1975 and there was just Mom and her three children. Me, my sister and brother. My brother passed very suddenly in 2001 with Mom following in 2004. Only my sister and myself left and she doesn't care for holidays so Christmas pretty much died with my Mom.
"I lead an isolated life... My world keeps getting smaller and smaller day by day. I spent most of the Christmas season this year crying and missing my Mom, who was my best friend. Hearing about Christmas constantly from people who have friends and family and exciting plans, only drove my sadness home. I was very depressed.
"I saw your The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood... I wasn't sure I wanted to read a Christmas story but after just having read The Crazy Old Lady, I knew the writing would be top notch so I grabbed it. I couldn't put it down. From the start I resonated with this man who had isolated himself over pain and trauma. I've had past trauma that keeps me isolated as well and understood him completely.
"But something strange happened as I kept reading about the tradition of Belsnickel. I kept looking at the charming cover, which I loved and I could picture these people so easily. Reading about the excitement of the children over a visit from Belsnickel brought back fond memories of my childhood. I'd never heard of Belsnickel, but it drove home to me how important tradition is. That Christmas traditions exist all over the world so they must be important in making us who we are.
"My heart seemed to lighten up, the further I read into the story. At the end when his heart was healed, I felt like mine healed a bit too. After reading this story, I started looking at Christmas with fresh eyes again. I realized that it didn't die with my Mom. It will never be the same, but I can still find it hiding in my heart when I need it. Thank you, Kathleen. You gave me back my Christmas. I think I was led to this story because I needed it and I am grateful to you for writing it. Your book touched me in a big way and I'll bet it is touching more people as we speak. Have a blessed Christmas."
I think there is no better gift that a writer can receive than knowing you have touched someone. I am so grateful to her for writing. It is also important to remember that Christmas is a mixed blessing for many people. So here are two of my favorite songs -- one for those still serving overseas away from their families and one for those who are lost. Merry Christmas everyone!