Take Joy!

Take Joy As awful as this may sound, I’ve had to stop watching the coverage of the Sandy Hook School shootings. It’s not because of a “that’s them not me attitude.” It’s just that at a certain point my heart could no longer bear the loss and horror of it all. I could feel myself sinking into darkness as I immersed myself in the unfolding details.

In my gloom, I remembered A Letter to a Friend by Fra Giovanni. Years ago, I was so overwhelmed by its beauty I used it as a concept for a Christmas card. The premise behind the reading is that we can choose joy over despair. It’s there for the taking. I’m not suggesting we should swallow our grief. No, but after it’s run its course, we should not linger there. It serves no one to poke and prod at the details of our sorrow.

Today, the only thing many of us can do for those affected by the shootings is to pray. At some point, that may change. But for now, I believe prayers sent to heaven from joy-filled hearts is no small thing.

Below is Fra Giovanni’s letter from Christmas Eve, 1510:


I salute you!  There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.  No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.  Take Heaven.  No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.  Take Peace. The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it yet, within our reach, is joy.  Take joy.  And so, at this Christmas, time I greet you with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

Flee away finalThe 100 year old gateway to the Maplewood Cemetery in New Lenox, IL. Allie (1)The little angel from my illustration in the flesh. Allie with the laughing eyes.

All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

Home is where the heart is. And the heart never really leaves home.

home-for-the-holidays-blue-lineThe arms of love encompass you with your present, your past, your future, the arms of love gather you together.   –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The concept for my above christmas card, Home for the Holidays sprang from my daughter’s imagination. Fresh from college, Bridget was nannying for a baby named Jack at the time. She was crazy about him and thought up the design so her little muse could be included. My son Brian, found the model for the angel pulling the tree. He knew Marissa’s uncle and thought she was one of most endearing little girls he’d ever met.

I was a little leery about a holiday card that focused on loved ones returning home. What about people separated by miles that for some reason couldn’t make it back? I thought how painful it would be for those who couldn’t  be together because of war or worse yet death. That year when Christmas came my own daughter would be halfway across the country in Idaho. I could already feel the sting.

Difficult as it was, my daughter’s move taught me something. I learned being separated by the miles had little or no baring on our relationship. We were closer than ever. Computers and cell phones brought me to the realization that being with Bridget in person is wonderful but only one aspect of our love. Our hearts were connected even though we were miles apart.

In 2009, when my sister died suddenly, it took that notion to a whole different level. The first Christmas without her was brutal. We were so much a part of one another it felt as if she had been ripped from me. As the years passed, I’ve settled into life without her in the flesh. I’ve adjusted to having a different kind of relationship with her. It took working through the grief to get to this point. Even though we are seemingly apart, we are closer than ever, just like with Bridget.

For awhile our souls inhabit these bodies, but our true selves are connected at a higher level. Real separation from anyone we love is not possible for they are entwined in our hearts. So in this season of joy and throughout the new year, I wish you the luxury of knowing all your loved ones are home. And in fact, they never left. 


Angel-eyed Marissa


Bridget and Jack way-back-when

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.