Yesterday, searching for a document, I uncovered a box containing items I’ve saved that touch my heart.  I settled in and spent the day savoring this cache of memories one by one.  At the top of the stack sat a photograph of me at age two with my great-grandmother. The back of the photo read, “Great-Grandmother, Jane Mary Campbell, Lincoln, Nebraska.” I love that I know her name, where we met and the connection I see in the photo.

As I culled through the box, I found a small green autograph book from sixth-grade. The first inscription was my dad’s. I cried when I read, “To my very darling daughter: You have many ambitions to be accomplished in your life. These will be done as you have all of the ability, intelligence and vigor to accomplish them. With Love From Your Father.” It reminded me how our words impact our children. To see his words articulated so many years later offered confirmation of my path.

Deeper in the box was a kindergarten report card, a Brownie beanie, a sixth-grade essay about my imaginary trip to Spain, photos and cards. I recognized the familiar handwriting in one card. It was from my mentor, friend and mother-in law, Joy. I heard her voice as I read her words, “I’m not only ecstatic that you are part of our family, but I’m proud to even know you. I’m proud of your values and your ethics and the way you live your life. And, I’m especially proud to be the recipient of your love.” To see ourselves through the eyes of those we love gives us strength to forge ahead in our passion and reminds us that we are not alone, even if that person has passed on.

Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, recounts items that service men carried with them into battle, things motivated by intuition and love. My box held those touch stones and presented me with an opportunity to remember, rejoice and be in gratitude—a perfect practice for this time of year.