I just got word that another friend from my youth died. I don't know the cause or when the funeral is, but I have found out as I get older, that news like this comes with increasing regularity.
Eventually, news like this comes not as an announcement, but more like a personal message. It drives home increasingly the vulnerability and brevity of life. We don't all get to be old men and women and we are not all destined for rocking chairs and retirement homes.
Ironically, this yule tide season carries with it its own message.
Last Christmas, the first in our new home, we were able to experience what we had fantasized about since we moved: having the family over for Christmas. All day long family, friends came and went. It alleviated my mother from the burden of having to clean and entertain and it was a joy to watch her sit and enjoy Christmas without having to even think about cleaning up.
I watched a new generation of cousins. These were the grand children of first cousins and second cousins and their children, so I had to keep asking, "OK, now whose baby is this?" It was exciting and sobering at the same time!
Last September I had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A second PSA screening had confirmed it, so it was a question of treatment. I had postponed the research that would lead me to making an informed decision. When you hear that you have cancer, you really don't take in a great deal after that. My wife and I hadn't even told our children yet. With the death of their brother in September, we figured to let them enjoy the holidays. Besides, earlier that morning we got word that another friend of theirs had died earlier that morning (believe it or not!).
I remember about the time we served dinner and everyone was milling about the table deciding what they would pile on their plate, I looked at the everyone trying to take it all in. One thought kept haunting me: "Next year, I might not be here..."
Obviously, things went much better than my worst fears. And this year, I think I'm a little more appreciative of just being here to celebrate this season. The year hasn't been easy, but this year is one for which I am truly and seriously more grateful.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!