It became a tradition. Every Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me white socks.

They were always the same brand, from the same place. And everyone always got a chuckle when I opened the gift with academy award surprise and genuine joy.

Fourteen years after her passing, the last pair finally wore out.

She would have turned 90 last week. On her birthday, I went to the warehouse store where she used to buy them. Yup. The socks were still there, the exact same design, in a huge pile between the blue jeans and the t-shirts.

Feeling those socks on my feet reminds me of the strong foundation she gave her six children, and those of us who later joined her flock as outlaws.

She lives on in in other ways, too; the aroma of the culinary artistry she passed on to my wife, and the loving attention to detail with which Colleen decorates our home for every holiday. Our own children and grands have latched on to her traditions. We remind them where they came from.

Each of us have spirits who pin a tiny bit of themselves into the people we decide to become. Some are family by chance. Others are family by choice.

They keep our feet warm and our hearts full, even as time, distance and death may separate us.

They give us the best of who they are, so we might be the best of who we are. And perhaps pass it on.

That is the true miracle of immortality.