A Holiday Message of Joy

Credit: @lera.petunina

My father was a kind and gentle man. He was quiet and a good listener. When he did speak, it was often in an effort to keep the peace amongst my many siblings.

A biologist by education he moved his young family up from the lower forty-eight to Juneau, Alaska in the 1950’s for a teaching position in the local high school.

After many years teaching and working for the State of Alaska, my father retired and became passionate about fly fishing. He would spend hours in his office tying flies and studying pictures of a variety of fresh water trout. He practiced catch and release, allowing him to reel in a beautiful living creature, examine it up close in his hands and then set it free. Many hours were spent out in nature, waist deep in the flow of a river, casting back and forth, the fly dancing through the air and laying gently down on the water, with the hope that a fish would rise to the surface.

Credit: @inkstitcher

In the latter years of my father’s life, bringing a gift for a white elephant exchange became a part of my family’s annual holiday gatherings.

After dinner together we would all gather around the pile of presents, and for a half hour or so, with increasing volume, complete with hand gestures, we negotiated the rules. Then the process would begin, playful banter would follow, gifts would change hands multiple times, and eventually everyone would end up with something.

Credit: @viktoriaalekseyeva

One year, my father opened his gift, only to find a rubber fish mounted on a wall plaque featuring a red button at the bottom edge. When the red button was pushed, the fish would wiggle back and forth, while lip synching the hit song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, by Bobby McFerrin.

Here is a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note,
Don’t worry.
Be happy.
Don’t worry, be happy.

It was clear from the moment he laid eyes on it that he loved that gift and no one dared take it from him. He would push the button over and over again, laugh until tears would stream down his cheeks. He later hung it on the wall and would find joy in watching his grandchildren race into his office, push the red button, and dance in delightful to that joyful song.

Credit: @lera.petunina

When my father passed, it was too painful for my mother to even see that fish. She asked my brother to please take it down. My brother honored her request and packed up it up along with many other of my father’s possessions and hauled the boxes away storing them in his garage.

Almost a year later, the boxes had been forgotten, and the annual Christmas gathering was shifted to my brother’s home. Without my father, we all were trying to put on a happy face, but the mood was forced. We were all grieving his absence.

None of us were up to doing the annual white elephant gift exchange, so we had extra time to linger around the dining table. My brother is a lot like my father, kind, quiet, a man of few words, but that year he was animated in talking about a re-occurring noise he kept hearing in his house. It would start up at odd times of the day and night, but before he could locate the source it would stop. We all agreed it was a bit of a mystery.

Credit: @lera.petunina

As we finished the meal, my brother abruptly stood up, “There it is! I can hear it!” He bolted for the door to his garage, swung it open, and disappeared from view. We could hear him rooting around amongst all the shelves, cabinets and boxes in search of the sound. It was clear he finally found something. We all waited in anticipation. When he returned, we could all see what he had discovered, forgotten for months, packed away in the jumble, he had that wall plaque mounted rubber fish, and it was singing,

Every life will have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry.
Be happy.
Don’t worry, be happy.

If you are still reading this story, I want to thank you. I believe that the spirits of our loved ones who have passed are always with us. May you find joy and peace this holiday season.

All my love-

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6 thoughts on “A Holiday Message of Joy

  1. Penny Thomas says:

    I love the story about the White Elephant exchange. It made my cry because I totally understand how special that was. We do a white elephant exchange as well every Christmas, so I really enjoyed your story. Merry Christmas to you!

  2. Lisa Andreen says:

    I can almost hear the laughter, the more dad laughed the more contagious the laughter became.
    I know that silly singing fish, several years ago it was popular in the sporting goods stores, while shopping someone would inevitably push the button and the store shoppers would giggle. It’s those memories that are more valuable than gold. Love, Lisa Andreen

  3. Nancy Lacke says:

    Beautiful to hear the story of your dad and family! I especially needed to hear the poem at the end as this has been an unusual Christmas for me. Have a beautiful Christmas with your loved ones.

  4. Mimi Sudlow-Evans says:

    Oh Becky! Tears are streaming down my cheeks. I know. I know that love. I know that loss and I know that bright light of hope and love that never ends. Thank you for reminding me.

  5. Kate says:

    What precious memories! I laughed so hard when the mystery sound was discovered to be the fish! Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and special family memory.

  6. Ann marie says:

    As a medium, I know that our loved ones on the other side are only a thought away. That fish singing is exactly how your dad would come thru- showing his humor & his love. The veil continues to get thinner, know that love never dies, & joy is our default – not a place that we hardly ever reside. As the Angels say- God loves us so much he wouldn’t force us to be happy.

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