Rochester, NY

I Experienced My Own Version of "It's A Wonderful Life"

Herbie J Pilato
Photo byThe Classic TV Preservation Society

This past Christmas Eve I returned to my hometown of Rochester, New York. I have been residing in Los Angeles for the last decade or so, and it was the first time I had visited Rochester at Christmas in too many years, and it was a wonderful vacation across the board.

My new book, The 12 Best Secrets of Christmas, which records my holiday memories growing up in Rochester in the 1960s and ’70s, had just been published. I hosted a local book signing at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble in Rochester, which I am thrilled to say was a sold-out, standing-room-only event. And I somehow managed to see as many family members and friends as possible during the trip, stopping at most likely every Italian restaurant that Rochester has to offer.

But through it all, I knew I had to visit my parents' gravesite, even though I know their spirits are soaring joyfully in Heaven. It was just a matter of respect to “visit” them on Earth.

Unfortunately, or not — and I say “or not,” because in the end, it really wasn’t unfortunate at all — there was a blizzard on Christmas Eve; a wintery, swift-winded blizzard; the kind you see at the beginning of the classic TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Combine that with the gravesite scene from any rendition of A Christmas Carol, and the image of that visit might be more fully clarified.

It was cold; cars were being blown across the roadways, and while visibility was mostly clear, it was still not the most productive thing to go out and about on that particular Christmas Eve.

Or then again — was it?

Assuredly, what happened to me on that Christmas Eve, because I journeyed into the cold, blizzardy early night to visit my parents’ gravesite, was a wonderful thing. It was like I was being rewarded for daring into the fridged, blistery air, seemingly against if not all odds, certainly several odds.

Upon arrival at the cemetery, I had forgotten where the resting place of my parents’ was located. So, I had to park the car in the cemetery parking lot and walk about — in the blizzardy, wintery, wind-blowing cold.

After a few moments, I found their headstones. In doing so, I was glad that I had brought my new winter coat, which I had just purchased in Los Angeles before my trip. It has a large hood, and I was glad about that, too. I was also wearing the new, large, and very warm scarf that a dear friend from my parish had gifted me shortly before I left L.A. Also, too, I made sure to wear my post-pandemic mask. Either way, I was all set to journey into any kind of cold air.

With all that said, and upon arrival at my parents’ headstones, I explained to them that I was very much aware that they were not there at all; and that I was, again, just making the visit as a gesture of respect; knowing full-well that they are soaring in the Light and Music and Joy of Heaven. It was important for me to keep on affirming and clarifying all of that, for my parents, myself — and for Heaven.

So, I continued my spiritual conversation with my Mom and Dad. I expressed how much I loved and missed them. Amidst some tears and much happiness, I just wanted them to know that all is well with me, even though I knew that they already knew and know that.

I didn’t stay long, mostly because it was so cold; but also because again, I knew in my heart of hearts that the essence of who they are was not really there.

And yet, their essence was indeed there.

Upon arriving at my next destination, I realized a certain prayer that I had not even prayed was answered. I was gifted with a special blessing that is too special to announce.

But somehow I knew that Heaven had opened its gates with my angelic parents helping to somehow guide the way.

In the end, and in addition to shades of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Christmas Carol, I was experiencing my own version of It’s A Wonderful Life.


Click here to order The 12 Best Secrets of Christmas: A Treasure House of December Memories Revealed.
Photo byArchway Publishing

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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