This post first appeared in 2013. Since that time, my dad has passed. My wife, too. The baby in the photo is now an effervescent 9-year-old with a 7-year-old brother. The son is living with me while the parties of the wedding in the photo sort out their divorce. Last year, Christmas came just 11 days after my wife died.
This Christmas, I am supremely grateful for every day I live, and every day I have lived prior. I feel I’ve had an easy time of it, these 62 years, and have been blessed with something of a charmed life. Perhaps it’s just an average one, or maybe below average.
It is the only life I have ever known.
Simply knowing a life puts me ahead of some people already.
“When you wake in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.”
- Chief Tecumseh
Joy to the world. Joy to you, my friends.
I had in mind to write a post called “Last Christmas”, and (not unlike some previous posts) talk about how we’d feel if we found that this had been our last Christmas. If we got the news in January or February or May, that we would not be likely to see another Christmas. Would we be pleased at the way we spent our days?
The post, however, is about This Christmas. Really, this philosophy is always about “this”. This day, this month, this anniversary, this birthday, this autumn, this season. It’s not so much the old “living-in-the-now” as much as it’s carpe diem, seize the day, make your life, in this moment and the next, the life you imagined for yourself.
This Christmas bears the most special and wonderful gifts for me. More than I deserve, I am humbled.
The photo above is taken at my son’s wedding in October. That’s Ryan at the left. Next is me, beside my Dad, and this year’s Christmas gift, my new granddaughter Ellie.
It’s a rare fortune for families to be able to gather four generations together. Turning 83 in January, every Christmas with my Dad is precious, invaluable.
So, about this “Last Christmas” thing.
I’m not trying to be particularly Dickensian or dramatic, but must reveal something I usually keep to myself.
Whenever I am recounting joys and fortunes, sadnesses and hardships, there is a bar, a benchmark, that is never out of my consciousness.
For me, no matter what occurs I compare the situation. We don’t like to talk about it, but we are patrons, “Partners In Hope” they’re called, of St.Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Here, children stricken with life-threatening cancers are cared for, and research is ongoing to combat this deadly foe. Families of these children are never asked for a penny in payment. Don’t we think they have enough to deal with without monstrous medical bills?
My heart and spirit are tied with strings of tears to these children, and their families. Some of them are just babies.
I can’t single-handedly save the whole world so I searched for a place I could do my best work. What could be more important than helping to save the lives of children?
I will listen to your troubles and woes. I will console, cajole and support anyone that comes to me. I will offer opinions colored as advice if you ask.
I will feed you, I will offer you a bed in my home. I will sit silently and hold your hand.
When it comes to an assessment of our troubles—yours, mine, the next guy’s—you will be given perspective.
You see, in Memphis, I have a lot of kids. We’re not hoping they get “what they want” for Christmas.
Every day, throughout this rolling year, our hope for them is simple.
We hope they live to see This Christmas.
May the peace of the season reign in hearts everywhere, and last throughout the year.