On-Line Story:
"All lit up"  means so many different things…

I can’t remember a year of Christmas going by when mom hadn’t gone out of her way to decorate. Her style and taste had such class to it. There were delicate white lights that lined the eaves and outside staircase on the old redwood log house. The twinkling red, green, yellow, orange, and blue strings were carefully placed on the shrubs that welcomed our guests at the entry gate; the arbor to the front door was lined with holly shrub, loaded with red berries. The exterior décor everyone awaited each year.

But the grand presentation was the decorated European style Douglas fir that stood in the center of the living room from the fist of December through New Years Eve. The awe it demanded by it’s intricate trimmings, was a walk back in Danish (and the family) history. There were "nisseman" (elves), finely hand blown glass ornaments glistening in the colored lights that beaded the needles. Actual candles at the end of the branches, symmetrically placed from top to bottom, only to be lit during the traditional around the tree dance. The angel gracefully placed atop kneeling as if in holy reverence to the meaning of the season – the birth of our Lord Jesus – the baby king in the manager.

Over the years there were additions and replacements of some of the glass adornments, the wax candles were replaced with simulated electric ones, respectfully the message that has survived through the years was "the birth of Christ Jesus, for US." The bird’s nest with the one chick and mother bird was the tradition of this message and always will be – the birth of the special One…

Whether it be electrical lights, candle lights, the child’s spirit enlightened, from December One to December Thirty-first, "everything was all lit up."

Fifty years (plus) have raced by and this child has grown up. Grandparents, Auntie, and Dad that branded their traditions on the holidays, have since passed; first one then the other. But the memories are stamped, and the affects are eternal – living from heart to heart. Perhaps the years gone by have adjusted the method and style to the new days of celebration, but the root of their meanings remain. Mommy Ellen of 76 years, continues her content while embracing the new. The last of the original clan; her hand in mine, and our culture etched hearts and ever-bound we look into the future, with a freshness to change.

Inclusive, the celebrations now are with sister-in-laws and family – sisters, husbands, nieces and nephews, and a grandbaby on the way – it should be June 2007, Prince? Or Princess? We’ll find out. The blend of the old embraced, the new coddled, and the “to be” awaited, have and always have had and will continue to have a sense of community; an unconditional loving of one another, regardless; it’s family.

Time is forward moving and our clan endured a integral loss– 2004, mother Mordoff – a light that lit up hearts, bringing them alive, encouraging; brother (in-law) Ray was one of those whose heart came alive. At the celebration of her life, in May of that year he poignantly expressed his heart, “We must stay together as a family, with our traditions, and community. We are a special family and family is the most important thing we have, and we must never discount and forget it. I mean that…”

That statement echoed in me continually after 2004. Every one seemed fine and healthy.
Brother Ray had become very ill shortly before Mother Mordoff’s timeless future – eternity. But…

He had had a femoral arterial aneurysm, which bled and should have been fatal – one in 10,000 cases live. He had made medical history – an anomaly. *_But God _*– by His grace He fed the hemorrhage back into a vein and kept him alive until surgery was done. Then shortly thereafter, diagnosed with fatal levels of cancer throughout his body. The light of life remained in his heart, while the doctors announcement was, “everything is all lit up…you’re light will soon go out…” The scans were showing dye illumination of the affected areas in all different colors and organs. It was then news went out; the emails heralding a pleading for prayer, from Nancy – our youngest sister and Ray’s wife.

Once again time shifted into another gear, and accelerated forward to 2006 – it was august and the notion slammed full force … we have to have a reunion! Ray… he said, “We have to stay together…” I couldn’t shake that thought.

The calls… the meshing of everyone’s schedules, time off from jobs, travel plans, and then the big decision… where?

“Nancy, is Ray able to travel? How far? Would he be up for it?”

The answers would be uncomfortable (i knew), but needed addressing. They went into discussion. We all awaited for the other to respond… everyone responded that they willing to do what it took to be together, and especially with Ray. Within a short period of time, Nancy was host to the 2006 Christmas Family Reunion. Ray wanted to be in his home with his family.

My husband and I were the last to arrive at their house in Neptune Beach, Florida, four days before New Years Eve. With the rest of the family awaiting with smiles, and cheers in the foyer, the greeting smile at the door was Ray’s. Thin, gaunt, smiling and with a set of eyes the glistened with joy. His smile and eyes seemed iridescent – his heart was alit; his family was together, and he was there. There were four days of laughter, sharing, announcements (the new arrival for the niece and her her husband – family as well), day adventure trips, sibling tomfoolery, even big fireworks on the 30th — what a finale! Everything was all lit up with color and shimmering airborne glitz!

On the morning of everyone’s departure (December 31st , 2006) a memory of a man that has the hand of God sustaining the light in his heart, smiled… and said, “I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree inside. What a great four days. Thank you! Ya’ll have the light too… keep it shinin’, cause mine is dimmin’. I love you…!!!”

We love you too Ray…

-Mona M. Mordoff, a tribute to Ray Pace and family