Thursday, December 27, 2012

Letting Go Of Christmas

I may be the only person in the United States, if not the world, still listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. I’m enjoying my decorations, too! We seem to be the only family in our neighborhood who turns on the Christmas tree lights at dusk every evening and leaves them on until midnight or later.

I really don’t mind being different.

The build-up to Christmas starts so early. By mid-September, if not sooner, you see trees and other decorations displayed in department stores and a month later, carols are playing, people are shopping and some start decorating – even before Thanksgiving. It goes on and on as the anticipation builds for three months. Shopping, cooking, decorating and getting together with family and friends. Finally, Christmas Day arrives. There’s the opening of presents, a gigantic dinner, friends and relatives stopping by, children's laughter everywhere.

And then, Poof! It’s over! There’s nothing left but a pile of paper, ribbons, and boxes to be discarded. Everyone is worn out and suddenly, all the gaiety and good will are gone. Some people want to get the mess cleaned up as soon as possible and put Christmas behind them.

What a let-down!

I had an e-mail the day after Christmas from my daughter, who lives in North Carolina. “I just want to get my life back to normal,” she said. She had already taken down some of her decorations but was reluctantly leaving her tree up a few days longer just to please her children. She inherited my mother’s “efficiency” gene.

When I was growing up, it was not unusual for my mother to take our tree down and have every trace of Christmas erased by late Christmas night. When the last package was opened, dinner was consumed and the dishes done, Christmas was over as far as she was concerned. I loved visiting my friends whose parents left their trees up until New Year’s Day!

And so... I drag Christmas out as long as possible. I seem to have inherited my grandmother’s “love of Christmas gene.” I don’t know for sure, but heard a rumor that, one year, she left her tree up until the first of March! Her grown children finally threatened to take it down for her if she didn’t do it. She really loved everything to do with Christmas – just like a child.

I don’t believe I’ll ever go that far, but I’m never eager to take the tree down. And when we do, I do it with tears in my eyes. There’s always the fear that it could be the “last” Christmas for me or someone I love.

So, as we approach the third day after the “biggest day of the year,” I’m enjoying Christmas music on the radio and getting ready to watch a Christmas movie. I can hang in there as long as the stations offer holiday fare!

I’m not ready to let go yet.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Don't you love it when you start with a piece of writing so rough you don't think it has a chance of ever making sense, but you change a word here, remove a word there, add a  phrase or two – and suddenly, right before your eyes, it begins to morph into something worthwhile – and your spirits soar!

That's what keeps me writing, I think – the possibility of a beautiful surprise today or tomorrow or somewhere down the road. I’m always waiting, expecting great words to flow effortlessly from my mind and become immortal.

When I was just a child, I used to lie on my bed and write poems and stories. I still have some of them. When I got married, my mother gave me two large boxes that were full of my early writings. My puffed up ego says, "Keep them. Someday you'll be glad you did." But the invisible sprite that sits on my shoulder trying to discourage me, says, "Throw them away. They're worthless!"

I've already reworked some of them and had them published, but many still linger in their original storage boxes, the paper growing brown and crisp from age, waiting, knowing that somewhere among them is that one phrase that will become immortal. Someday.

Ah... how sweet are the hopes and dreams of a writer!

How inflated the ego!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And So This Is Christmas

And so this is Christmas?

It is now only one week until Christmas. I’m not ready. Many interruptions have prevented me from doing what I need to do. 

I make a list each day of what I’d like to accomplish that day, but at the end of the day, there are things I didn’t get done that have to be moved to the next list. 

I’m not making any headway and I’m getting frustrated!

Christmas is supposed to be fun. Exciting. A time of sharing, a time for loving and giving – but it seems to be more of a chore for me this year than it’s ever been before.

However, in a little more than a week, it’ll all be over. Looking back after a few days, it will seem as though it never was – and hopefully, I will forget how difficult it was. I’ll only remember the good things: getting together with loved ones, the laughs, the delicious foods, the beautiful decorations and, most of all, the reason we celebrate this special season every year – to honor the birth of Baby Jesus.

A few days ago, we all witnessed a terrible tragedy when many children and some adults were shot down by a deranged individual. Some of the children were little more than babies. It was a senseless act. Cruel. Mad!

As I mourn for them and those who loved them, I can’t help but wonder why a loving God allows such atrocious things to happen. As I ponder the situation and try to envision myself in the place of a mother who lost a young child – or even an adult child, I can’t begin to imagine the agony caused by such a horrifying experience.

Tears cloud my eyes. I bow my head and say a prayer for each and every one affected by the tragedy. And I realize that it doesn't matter if I’m on schedule or not. What matters is that I give my very best to this Holy season, cherishing my loved ones and being very thankful for all my blessings.

Who knows what the next year may bring? The next day? Hour? Minute...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Too Young To Die

My son’s best friend died a few days ago.

He was only 55 years old. His problem started with a mole. A tiny brown spot. It didn’t look serious. In fact, it looked so innocent that he didn’t see a doctor right away. Even with much urging from the woman in his life, he resisted. “Please let a doctor look at it just to be sure it isn’t anything to worry about,” she pleaded. But he ignored her.

It’s a mystery to me why men refuse to go for medical help even when it’s possible they have a serious problem. Many illnesses, if caught early, can be stopped in their tracks. But too many men think it’s just not macho to see a doctor with every little pain. Sadly, countless numbers lose their lives because of such foolish beliefs.

Finally, the brown spot wasn’t tiny any more. It grew. And grew. And he realized it was time to give in. After a thorough examination and tests, the doctor said it should be removed. It was done. The growth was very deep as was the incision in his side. The pathology report confirmed their fears that it was melanoma! But doctors said they got it all and he should have no more problems.

And so... he went on with his life, working and playing and caring for the people around him. He had five children and an aging mother who lived nearby. They were a close-knit family.

About a year later, the tiny brown spot reappeared. This time he didn’t wait.

He saw the doctor right away. The news was not good. The melanoma had returned. All the treatments known to man were done but the growth persisted. Bigger and bigger it became. The man was finally told that the cancer had spread to his bones and there was nothing to be done. He had only a few months to live.

The pain was bad and quickly became worse until the only thing that helped was morphine. It hurt to get up, to walk, to sit. It just hurt. Continuously.

As the pain intensified, the doctor prescribed stronger doses of morphine. Finally, he couldn’t stay up. After a short hospital stay, his sister insisted he go to her house to be cared for by her with Hospice assisting. Reluctantly, he complied. After he was settled in, the first person he asked his sister to phone was my son. He wanted to see him right away.

For a couple of months, my son spent every moment he could spare sitting by the bedside of his friend. They talked and laughed about the things they’d done together over the years, and when his sister brought food for her patient, she always brought a plate for his friend, too.

As the time drew near, he slept more and talked less, but my son continued to sit with him all he could.

When he finally passed, only his mother and sister were with him.

Mr. H. and I went to his funeral yesterday. It was sad, like all funerals. But God always provides a good memory to help dim the pain of a very bad one. Thus, I’ll never forget the striking beauty of the dozens of red and white poinsettias that flanked the casket.

The first thing the minister said was, “Fifty-five years old is much too young to die!”

I agree.