On Christmas and my parents

Lynne McTaggart

Christmas is always a time for me of joy but also a sense of wistfulness and reflection, because of the particulars of my own story.

My mother died four days before Christmas. We spent that grim last week of 1996 in her house in Florida, burying her, clearing out her possessions, tying up the hundreds of loose ends involved in ending a life.

Sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of her bedroom one afternoon, I spotted a small maroon keepsake box under the bed and uncovered, next to a pink baby album and a few faded early Polaroids, a bundle of all my letters home from college.

I opened a few of the multi-colored envelopes and sat back to read, in the loopy handwriting of my youth, a blow-by-blow account of my first year away from home at Northwestern University.  Amid a catalogue of imagined accomplishments —tacit reassurance to my parents of the soundness of their investment — one passage stood out: “Today, I am going to learn astronomy.”

I smiled, recalling this upstart younger self, but any amusement was quickly dispelled by the realization that my mother would never share this moment with me. She of all people would have immediately grasped my true meaning — I am going to take on all of astronomy in a single day — she who’d been so entertained by, so invested in this particular character flaw of mine, an early certainty that any behemoth across my path could be safely wrestled to the ground.

Today, I am going to learn astronomy. That line became a kind of catchphrase between my husband and I during the writing of The Field – and indeed of most of the books I went on to write. For a non-scientist like myself to take on this project began to seem no less preposterous than trying to swallow the whole of astronomy in a single gulp.

Christmas also brings up of memories of my Dad, whose birthday was six days before Christmas. My father, the bright youngest child of working-class Irish, was more an inventor than a straightforward engineer. At the end of the Second World War, he designed a revolutionary kind of heating system for all the new homes being built for returning vets.

In order to fund the start-up, he found two partners willing to invest. They would handle the sales and finance, while he would focus on the designs and shop floor. In a nod to the patriotic mood of the times, the three partners christened their new firm the ‘Federal Boiler Company.’

Dad’s business rapidly took off. He and my mother had moved from Yonkers and the Bronx to the pretty suburban town of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Year after year, they enjoyed the fruits of increasing prosperity: a speedboat, a second car, a second home.

By 1970, one partner had died and dad’s remaining partner was growing ill. The company began to founder badly. After the remaining partner died and my father took over, he discovered the reason: two sets of accounting books, the official one for my father, and another revealing the truth about the other two partners’ drawings.

Before the business got bought for a song, the hefty life insurance on Federal’s directors was still in place. The partner’s widow landed a million dollars, while my father, by then in his mid-fifties, had to find work among his company’s rivals. When I returned home from college one summer, the second car and house were gone, and the house in Ridgewood he and my mother had built from scratch was up for sale.

Dad never stopped believing that he could do it all over again. On a trip to Florida, he saw another problem that needed a solution – the damage done to small pleasure boats continuously kept in the water. My parents moved to Florida, where my father set to work designing an ingenious boat lift that would scoop boats up and out of the water with just a push of a button.

During a particularly stifling summer’s day, while welding one of the prototypes, he fainted. The welding rod in his hand fell on his face, killing him instantly. Unlike his old partner, he died without life insurance. The new policy he’d meant to sign that evening was sitting on his bedroom chest of drawers.

I think of the sadness of their final trajectory – my Dad’s early death at age 60, my mother’s death at 78, all the credit card debt my brother and I discovered she’d left without the cushion of much savings or any life insurance.

But perhaps the greatest sadness for me is that they never actually got to see who I was going to become.  My father was around when I landed my first editorial job in New York, and published my first big newspaper scoop, but he never knew that I would go on to write books.  He died before he could meet my husband Bryan or our two daughters or even What Doctors Don’t Tell You – or any of it.  He never lived to see the entire trajectory of my adult life.

And my mother, who did get to meet Bryan and her first granddaughter and witness the beginning of my professional life, never lived to see our second daughter, or even where life would take us, the sharp pivot I would take in my career to write The Field.

She never lived to see that I would indeed take on the whole of astronomy in one gulp – in this case, quantum physics and modern medicine. It would have made her smile.

But the spirit of both of them live on in me, the constant cheerleader of my mother, rooting for me to do what had been unavailable to her as a housewife in the 1960s. Or my Dad, providing the moral compass that always pointed to true north, whose early death when I was 25 spurred me on to never wait for a tomorrow that never comes.

I wish they had been around to celebrate a few more Christmases with us, but they are still here in me, continuing to shape the person I am and will be.

May you spend a moment this holiday season toasting your parents for setting you on your path, with all its joys and sorrows, all its strange turns and detours, that make up a life lived to the full.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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13 comments on “On Christmas and my parents”

  1. Personal message: Read your blog today and wanted you to know that your parents have guided you all along your path. Check with your good friend Sue G on Humanity's Team for evidence. Much love is being sent to you for your service to Humanity. Have a Merry Christmas. The angels are smiling because of you.

  2. What a beautiful surprise, dear Lynne, this intimate sharing of your life story. Thank you very much for daring to unvail
    yourself. Majority of people don't do it. They prefere to keep the distance for a safe privacy.
    As you dig in the human psychology in order to simplify lifes, and to give people the tools for a better management of life, you encourage them herewith for a self reflection, and also for a real contact with you. If this was your aim - you reached me. I can open myself to your experiment, if you wish, even though I will not participate in your amazing course, because I am 78 years old, and do not have great ambitions about the future anymore. For me it is to late.
    Wishing you and your family relaxed Holidays, and a healthy, happy New Year.
    Thank you from the deps of my heart for your rich initiatives for shaping peace in the hostile regions.

  3. Thank you so much for this story of your life.
    After my mother died, I found 3 huge ring binders , with hundreds of pages of her writings, single spaced on thin airmail paper.. we were displaced person after the war in Germany and then immigrated. So thes writing were from 1948 to about 1969.
    I learned about things in my life that were new, descriptions of daily life.. it was a treasure.
    I found a. Person in Germany that wants to do something with the letters.

  4. Thanks Lynne. I read The Field just after it first came out and like many who did likewise or in the years since then, I have never been entirely the same since. In a good way. To observe, perceive, collate and describe clearly is a special talent. Thanks for exercising it so happily and infectiously all this time. Thanks also for all the extrapolations and extensions you have gifted us with during the years since your breakthrough. If I could say one extra word of encouragement, it would be - apply your own vision - your parents are definitely with you and see everything you do, say and even think. Love.

  5. Thanks Lynne. I read The Field just after it first came out and like many who did likewise or in the years since then, I have never been entirely the same since. In a good way. To observe, perceive, collate and describe clearly is a special talent. Thanks for exercising it so happily and infectiously all this time. Thanks also for all the extrapolations and extensions you have gifted us with during the years since your breakthrough. If I could say one extra word of encouragement, it would be - apply your own vision - your parents are definitely with you and see everything you do, say and even think. Love.

  6. A wonderful and touching tribute to your Parents Lynne…
    How proud they will be of your fantastic achievements!
    Yes, I’m sure they are still with you, and are aware of yours, and
    your family’s successes…
    It made me think of my own Parents, and how their hard work and
    Love has shaped me…
    Please carry on doing all your wonderful research and “learning Astronomy..”
    and I hope your Parents are enjoying watching over you, your husband and your
    two daughters with immense pride…
    and enjoying their
    present adventure!

  7. How sweet to read your story, even if it is sad in a way. But you manage to turn your story around in such a way that it is inspiring, positive, heart warming, glimmering with hope and brining a smile on ones face

    Yes, I wished as well that your parents would have had the possibility to witness your path longer, feeling pride and happiness observing what you achieved.

    Thank you for being the person you are and thank you for what you give - to so many people.
    Wishing you a light filled Christmas and a New Year, in which you can reach out to many more souls who need your wisdom and care.

  8. Lynne, thank you for sharing such a deeply moving accounting of your parents true nature. It is easy to see why you are so sucessful and so compassionate with all of your teachings. I, like many others had loving dear parents who have been missed since their passings and yes the Christmas season always and forever will bring back so many wonderful memories of them both. I believe I now know why I immediately signed up for your 2024 master lass. I look forward to a year learning from you.
    Thank You

  9. Dear Lynne,
    What a beautiful and poignant life story….with all your tender reflections on your parents. I was born and raised in New Jersey and know the beauty of that state….the beaches, high country, Pine Barrens and lovely small gardens among so much more. Your parents thrived there. How amazing that your father was an inventor that brought a new heating system to all new homes! Equally how unfortunate his business partners were so unscrupulous and stole from the company. I find his resilience amazing.

    My parents didn’t get to see the entire trajectory of my life while they were alive but they did get to spend good quality time with their two grandsons. For that I am so thankful. Thank you again for reflections as they elicited my own deep memories.

    Thank you for writing the Power of Eight. I’ve been in a group since July of this year and I tell you how excited we all get when we learn of a person or situation that has healed due to our intentions. When. They. Were. At. A standstill. We’ve had many amazing reports that we hope to share with you and your team.

    We all know energy isn’t created or destroyed so I like to think that your parents and mine (and all of our parents and loved ones) are aware of our lives and cheering is on from their vantage point in the heavenly realms.

  10. But the spirit of both of them live on in me

    I love that line Lynne. There is so often sadness around the passing of loved ones, but only we can take those memories and make them real in our own lives, joyously! Thank you!

  11. Thank you, Lynne McTaggart, for writing your12/20/23 Christmas story blog.
    Only today, reading Bruce Lipton's December newsletter did your name come to my attention. Thus, I went from: Dr. Lipton's newsletter; to reading about your 2024 "Power of 8" Masterclass; next to your website; and then, once there to this particular Blog. It's been like a magic carpet ride.
    Had been feeling not only grateful for this Holiday seasons' blessings; but also, bittersweet for sadly out of balance connections. Reading your blog, your story, reminded me of both my parent's stories as children of immigrants. While I had mine much longer than you did yours, I needed a reminder. To remember that what has been broken, in turn, can open unexpected doors for healing, growth, and altruistic thinking. Again, for sharing your uplifting story, thank you!

  12. I am so saddened by what happened to your dad and the way he was betrayed by his two friends. It brought tears to my eyes as I went through something similar, it is so hard to reconcile with the fact that friends or close family can betray somebody kind and honest. I really try very hard to forget and forgive but obviously I haven’t quite succeeded

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