2007 Dec … As December arrived, I pushed forward in this new life on my own and tried to keep the emotions of the upcoming holiday season from sinking me.

Ron kept trying to get through to me, using different ways to break through my doubt.  (It’s important to be aware of the variety of ways our departed loved ones can attempt to get their messages across, so we can be on the lookout!)

This one takes a little explaining …

A wooden calendar, you say?

Some years earlier, during my business career, I had volunteered for Junior Achievement … helping high school students learn about business.  They select a product idea, which they design, make, market, and sell.  Then they tally up the profits (hopefully) or losses (frequently). 

As business advisors, we were there to help them try to achieve the former and avoid the latter.

In this role, I was always on the lookout for product ideas.  I had come across the idea of a “wooden calendar.”  The days of the month are represented by wooden blocks … each block having a number between one and thirty-one stenciled on it.

To add more interest, a few of the blocks would have hand-painted images on the back … to represent holidays and special occasions. 

For example, in my culture, there would be a Christmas tree on the back of the 25th.  Maybe a heart on the back of the 14th … you know, for Valentine’s.  

Each month, you would “assemble” your calendar with the appropriate blocks, choosing whether to display the number or the image, depending on the month.

It sounded like a fun idea and could be quite marketable.  However, before proposing it to the students, I needed to ensure it was reasonable for them to tackle.  So, Ron agreed to make a prototype. 

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, Ron never did anything half-way….  By the time he was finished with the prototype, it was a beautiful work of art that would be highly desirable in any upscale retail store. 

Only one problem … it had taken him several hundred hours to make.  Yeah, scratch that idea!  We found another project for the kids …. 

However, this idea caught Ron’s attention and it became a hobby for him for a few years.  He made several, gifting some and selling others … just to family and friends.

They were quite special for all who received them … truly works of art.  His care and attention came shining through in their quality.  Of course, we kept one for ourselves … the first one he made … and we used it all the time.

Missing blocks

Shortly after our move out to Vancouver Island six months earlier, I had unpacked the calendar, ready to hang it.  With dismay, I had noticed two blocks were missing … including the 25th … yes, with the Christmas tree painted on the back.

At the time, I checked each of the blocks, front and back, to find these missing blocks … nowhere to be found.  But that was a time when I had many other things on my mind, so I set it aside for another day.

On this early December day, I was wrapping presents to send to family.  I was dreading Christmas … it had been a special occasion for Ron and me for many years. 

It was our “Canadian family” holiday.  He was American, so we would travel to see his family on U.S. Thanksgiving in November.  But Christmas was my family’s turn … we’d make the long winter drive to Saskatoon (in the Canadian prairies). 

We’d usually stay with Mom and Dad, which for years (and years…) was the central gathering spot for my family.  We generally arrived with a mountain of gifts in tow … mostly from Ron to me.  It was always a special time.

This would be my first Christmas on my own.  With the wounds of grief still raw, it was especially difficult ….

But I pressed on and had shopped for a few gifts to send to family.  Now, in the midst of wrapping them, I opened a kitchen drawer, looking for tape, and to my great surprise … there was one of the missing calendar blocks! 

I was excited, not only at having found it, but speculating … just how did it get there??

Then I remembered … oh, yeah … darn!

Nothing mysterious.  After the movers had left the house in Calgary, I’d found it on the floor and tucked it away for safekeeping.  I’d just forgotten about it.  I guess I hadn’t opened that drawer … at all … in the past six months.  

Well, one down … one to go!  I went to put it away where I kept the blocks not needed for the current month.  I stored them in a wooden box … also made by Ron.

As I opened the lid, my jaw dropped …

Staring up at me was “the Xmas tree” … the missing 25th block. 

Okay, this one I knew I hadn’t just forgotten about.  I was certain … I had checked each and every block when I first unpacked the calendar … front and back.  And it was not there. 

At least … I think I’m certain … and doubt crept in through the open door.  Because, after all, I couldn’t actually prove it … oh, Karen, Karen ….

So, in my journal, what did I celebrate? Having completed the calendar …. 

Yup!  Instead of thanking Ron for the message I now know he was trying to convey … “Hey, I’m still here, I love you, and Merry Christmas.


When departed loved ones move physical items around, sometimes it’s to get your attention, and sometimes it’s to help you find a lost item … which can be super helpful!  Instead of second-guessing how it happened, trust it’s coming from your loved one and say thanks!

In fact, not long afterward, I came across my health card that had been missing for months.  It was in a file folder that I accessed on a regular basis … and had searched through many times.  One day, it just “showed up.”  That time, I did thank Ron ….

Trying again … from another angle

Christmas drew near.  Although my sister, Cathy, had just flown out the previous month to see me, she hopped on a plane once again … what a blessing.

I had seen an announcement that the local Hospice had a booth set up at a nearby shopping mall, with Christmas trees and “angel cards.”  Anyone who wished to could hang a card in memory of a lost loved one and take away a special candle in remembrance. 

The idea of participating in this was an emotional prospect, but I felt it was important for me to do … however, not on my own.  So I waited for Cathy. 

A special acknowledgment for Ron … and from Ron

We headed to the mall.  It was a lovely heart-felt display that Hospice had arranged.  I hung my angel card, expressed my love to Ron, took my candle, and shed a tear … or two.

Afterward, we made our way through the cool, wintry weather and returned to my car in the expansive outdoor parking lot. 

When we reached the car, I was telling Cathy how much I appreciated her taking such a key weekend … just a week before Christmas … to leave her family to come and see me. 

She was about to open the car door when she stopped abruptly … looking at me with a funny expression on her face. 

“I smell Ron’s pipe tobacco,” she said.

Ron had smoked a pipe for much of his life.  It had a very pleasant aroma.  And a distinctive one … he smoked a proprietary blend that he had shipped up to Canada from a tobacconist in the U.S.

Although I would smell it in the weeks to come, it wasn’t something I’d come across yet.  And I didn’t smell it this time either …. 

This time, apparently, it was just for Cathy.  But I quickly understood that Ron was catching her attention, so he could thank her, too …. 

Or maybe he was just tired of me not getting his messages so he thought he’d try someone else … LOL!

My turn was to come …

Fortunately, Ron didn’t give up on me.  He tried this technique again, the day after Christmas, when I was with our friends, Joan and Doug.  At that time, I noticed the aroma … but chalked it up to the scented candle that Joan had burning.

Undaunted, he kept at it.  About a month later … success! 

The aroma stopped me cold in my tracks. 

It was evening and I was home alone.  No scented candles burning.  It was in a spot in the middle of the large open area on the lower floor where I watched TV each night. 

I ran all around, trying to identify the source of the aroma, but it was in just that one spot … a circle about two to three feet in diameter.  Then, after about five minutes, it disappeared.

Although I tried hard to disprove it … you know, find a physical source for it … I had to finally admit there really wasn’t one, so …

I guess this really is Ron saying hello … wow, how cool!  He had finally found a way to get my attention in a way that I knew it was him! 

Since then, this has happened several times, in different locations, both indoors and out.  Now, I always stop to acknowledge Ron ….


Aromas are common messengers from our departed loved ones … anything that we associate with them … perfume or cologne, flowers, baking bread, cigar or pipe tobacco ….  They often pop up around special occasions when they want to let us know they’re around, too.

Really, there are sooo many ways our loved ones can reach out to us … we simply need to be open to them and watching for them!

But it’s easier to do when we know what they might be. 

Ron kept trying to show me … and, yes, I continued to be a slow learner.  Sigh ….


Anne · April 7, 2021 at 9:14 PM

Beautiful post Karen. It’s reassuring to hear how hard you found it to believe that it was really Ron. I guess this is a big part of the journey for people in our culture.

Adrienne · April 8, 2021 at 7:29 PM

You are a fantastic storyteller! Not only do you do a great job of teaching us the lesson, but you weave in a fun and deep story that keeps us hooked. Thanks so much for sharing! I will be sure to watch out for (or smell) the signs. 🙂

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