My last Christmas will be like most others have been, yet unlike any before it. And certainly unlike any after it. We're going ahead with all of our traditions, and spending Christmas Day at home, as usual. But as much as we try to celebrate like we always have, there's a bit of melancholy around this one. When someone in the house is dying, jolly can be hard to come by. But love and joy abound.
The above pictures are of some of our decorations. Yes, that's a genuine aluminum tree from the 1960's. I bought it on Ebay about fifteen years ago, complete with color wheel. My favorite piece is the candy cane mailbox. When I posted these pictures on Facebook last week, someone asked if I will be able to go home for Christmas this year. I replied that this is home. We are home for Christmas.
When my parents moved from our hometown of Plymouth, Michigan to Illinois decades ago, visiting my family ceased to be "going home." When many of my friends go to visit their families, they are also visiting the place where they grew up. That hasn't been true for me since the 1980's. For Sharon and me, Denver, Colorado is home. This house where we've lived since 1999 is home.
Most of our friends have their own families and traditions, or live out of town, or have to work on Christmas, or some combination thereof. And the list of people that we would want to spend Christmas with, to be honest, is very short. For many years, Sharon and I have spent Christmas Day here at home, just the two of us. We have a specific set of traditions for Christmas Day, and we will follow them one more time.
One more time, we'll listen to Handel's Messiah all the way through while we get ready and open our gifts. One more time, we'll tag our gifts to each other using names of characters in movies, TV and books. To Clark from Lois, and so on. One more time, we'll light a fire in the fireplace in the room where the tree is (we have fireplaces in two rooms) and throw our wrapping paper into the fire, watching the pretty multi-colored flames. One more time, we'll have a frittata with mimosas for brunch, and fondue for dinner. One more time.
Buying gifts is an issue when you're in my shoes. At our stage of life, we're not accumulating things anymore. On the contrary, we're giving everything away. When friends come to our home, we beg them to take our CD's, DVD's, and books. We give away boxes and bags of clothes and other household items to charity every month. My wife has given away whole sets of china and glassware, and is planning to give away more. If we are close, dibs are accepted. I've sold most of my musical equipment, and given the rest to my protege. So it's really pointless for us to get gifts for each other. But we're doing it anyway, because it would spoil Christmas morning not to. It's my last Christmas, so I want it to be Christmas.
I wish I could describe the joy I get from giving my worldly possessions to those I love. People feel weird taking our stuff. They feel like vultures or something. Please don't feel that way. I recently gave a couple of CD's to a friend because he said he was a fan of the band. That was a couple of weeks ago at least, and he continues to tell me how much he's enjoying them. I can't tell you how that makes me feel. It's worth a lot more than those CD's I wasn't even listening to anymore, I can tell you that.
They say it's the season of giving. That's certainly true at our house this year, but I'll repeat something I said in an earlier post. When Jesus said it's more blessed to give than to receive, he wasn't making up some new law. He was stating a simple fact. The giver gets the greater blessing than the receiver. I can testify that it's true.
Our decorations are more minimal this year than in past years. It's hard to work up the enthusiasm to go all out, considering everything that's happening. Our dear friend Sandi got up on our rickety ladder to put up our icicle lights this year because my balance is no longer good enough to climb up a tall ladder. That's a true friend. Those of you who were reading this blog last year at this time may remember how conflicted I was about buying an LED spiral tree for our front yard. I didn't know if it would be worth it, not knowing how many Christmases I'd get to enjoy it. That number turned out to be two. Last year and this year. After this Christmas, we'll give that away too.
But I don't mean to imply that this Christmas is not being treasured and enjoyed. Last year, I had a lot of trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. But not this year. This year, I've been reflecting on Christmas throughout my life. All month, I've been posting Christmas pictures and memories on social media. I found out this week that my baby dedication was on Christmas Day, 1955. I posted a scan of the certificate.
Christmas has been a very special season for me all my life, starting with my first Christmas. I'm one of those people who is totally into Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, but don't want to see it or hear about it any other time. That's more true this year than ever before. I'm wringing every bit of enjoyment I can out of my last Christmas, because as of January, I have other things to focus on.
I'm enjoying listening to our vast collection of Christmas music more than I have in the past. I know I'm listening to most of these songs for the last time. I'll enjoy listening to them for two more weeks, then put them away. I love Christmas, and I'm enjoying this one as much as I can, but I don't have time to dwell on it after it's over.
I wish I could communicate the joy as well as I do the melancholy. Because the joy is ever present. I wish I could describe how concentrated the appreciation of time is. As I said in an early post more than two years ago, when you can see that it's finite, life becomes much more precious. Because of that, I'm glad to know that this is my last Christmas. I wouldn't be so focused on remembering past Christmases and telling about them if I didn't know that. I wouldn't be so determined to spend time with those I love the most. If I'm making an effort to spend time with you, it's the highest compliment I can give. Time is the most precious thing I have. Because this is my last Christmas. #waroncancer #bearingwitness