Edith here, north of Boston
Somehow I signed up for the Christmas Eve post. I’m a Quaker but not really a Christian. I love rituals and holidays. I think ahead of time about what would make my family and friends happy to receive, and try to find that perfect book or concert tickets or extra-bright bike light that will make them glad when they open it tomorrow. I put candles and strings of lights in the windows and on an evergreen tree to try to banish the dark and bring back life. I’m a gardener and former farmer, and I can feel the fear of early northern peoples who saw their crops freeze, their light and heat dwindle, and wondered if it would ever return.
I remember so fondly the days when my boys were young. On Christmas Eve they would stand in front of the wood stove in their new (hand-sewn by me) flannel pajamas, and recite The Night Before Christmas. We’d set out the cookies, carrots, and milk for Santa and the reindeer before Allan and John David went up to bed, exacting a promise that they would stay upstairs until seven the next morning. Only then could they come down and extract the contents of their stockings.
Now my sons are fine men in their twenties. Sometimes, this year included, one won’t make it back to Massachusetts for Christmas. Their father and I are divorced, so the Eve and the Day are split between two families. But ya know? I still have my boys and they have me. We can still talk on the phone, send emails and texts, share Facebook links. We can exchange hugs, walk arm in arm, talk about relationships, chop vegetables for dinner next to each other. I am blessed.
A very dear friend of mine, with sons my sons’ ages, is dying. She’s five years younger than I am. She’s a woman with incredible grace, a wry sense of humor, a love of dancing, a completely devoted (and now devastated) second husband of seven years, and invasive brain cancer. This is pretty much guaranteed to be her last Christmas Eve, her last winter holiday with her boys. She raised up them by herself with no help from their father. They are lovely, caring, smart, funny men. And they have to say goodbye to to her presence on this earth.
May we all, on these blessed days that rightly belong to family and friends – not to Walmart and expensive gifts – hold our loved ones near. May we learn how to abandon petty quarrels and express our true feelings. May we hold those passing through onto the next plane in our hearts, our prayers, our Light. May we learn from the prophet Jesus to treat others well, to love with passion, to look for the birth of something or someone new as a great blessing. May you have a day filled with warmth, comfort, good food, and fun. What else can we ask of life?