Great-Grandpa Yoder’s birthday was yesterday, and my mom went to dinner with her siblings to commemorate it and celebrate the family that continues.

Although it was Great-Grandpa Yoder’s birthday, our family (my aunts and uncle and mom) gave Katie and me a gift: Great-Grandpa Yoder’s Oreo cookie jar that used to sit in his kitchen. When we visited him for lunches all through Katie’s three years, he would often have a BLT made by Aunt Debbie with her delicious garden tomatoes, a glass of milk, and one Oreo cookie. One Oreo a day, on a tiny little plate off to the side of his sandwich. Of all the pictures I do have, how I wish I had one of him sitting in his lunch spot at the big dining room table eating lunch with us. The most simple and fundamental of activities. When someone we love is gone, it is the day-to-day moments we miss.

At 10:00 last night, my mom was heading into a supermarket to buy Oreo cookies to fill it up for us. When we have a cookie, we are going to have one at lunch—just like Great-Grandpa did.

I can hardly find the words to express what it means that our family gifted us with his jar. It is one of his relics that most connects Katie’s memories to that real time in her life when she knew her Great-Grandpa.  He would always share his cookies with her, and since Katie loves sweets, this made quite an impression. I am so fortunate beyond measure that she was old enough to have memories of this Great-Grandpa, and I have a deep-rooted sadness that Eric never will have the same ones. At least they all got to share the same space and time together. It is poignant now, especially, since Eric has taken his first steps. Katie’s second set of steps was in front of her Great-Grandpa, taken in between my mom and me holding out our arms. That was a joyous moment, in the past as quickly as the wind through the trees.

This picture was taken the last time we ever visited Great-Grandpa Yoder at his home, the last time Katie actually saw him. I will never forget how she wanted me to tell him that she was there waiting for him at the hospital on his last night. It was the first thing she asked in the car that night, “Mommy, did you tell him I was here?” The cookie jar is pictured in the background here: it is a snowman with a blue scarf. In this picture, the top (the head of the snowman) is off of the jar because we were taking an Oreo out.

I know that whenever we look at the jar, or take a cookie out, that we will have an instant of connection with him and with those afternoons with him. We talk about him all the time, but the jar is like a talisman—a talisman that takes us through space and time to other moments when we touched that jar in his house, when he was still alive. It used to sit on his counter… He saw it every day.

Looking at this picture of Katie taken in February of her first year (she is actually wrapped up here in the blanket that would turn out to be her Cozy Blanket), I think back to the time we were able to share with him… When I went back to work after Katie was born, the district let me use my FMLA leave in any configuration (except splitting up a single day) I chose. I could use all the leave time at once, or I could use the days interspersed throughout weeks and months. I used three months of it to stay home with Katie, and then I reserved a portion of days (about two weeks of it) to take one day off in the middle of every week until school got out that June. My intention was to use that one day a week to build the connection between Katie and her Nana and Katie and her Great-Grandpa. And I did… Many of those mid-week days, Katie and I went visiting with Mom to her great-grandparents’ houses. That was one of my better decisions in life.

So, to my aunts and uncle and to my mom, thank you for giving us Great-Grandpa’s cookie jar. It is a symbol of those happy days, a symbol of the memories Katie has of one of her ancestors. We are thankful, for as much as it makes my throat lumpy to see it on my counter, I also feel great joy in knowing it was his.

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