Happy Second Day of Christmas, one and all…in this house we keep Christmas as a season: 12 days! I didn’t get either a partridge in a pear tree or two turtle doves from my true love, but still…
Christmas Eve we got home from church at 1 a.m. with hoarse throats, due to 9:30 choir rehearsal, 10:30 hymn sing, and then 11:00 Eucharist, but it was a lovely evening nevertheless. We slept in: got up at 7 a.m. instead of 5 or 6, and still got out to feed the sheep at about 7:30, the usual winter time…For the past few days I’ve had this premonition about one of my oldest sheep, Elnora, and kept looking to see her dead. Christmas morning, I wasn’t preoccupied with those thoughts, looked out on the winter paddock, and there she was, dead. She was not particularly old, just 11, but has had a rough life in places, beginning with her birth. She, however, has borne me one single followed by 8 sets of twins, all healthy, all well marked with lovely fleece, none with problems, none with fused horns, even though she had fused horns on one side, AND she was very sweet and very friendly…in short, I will miss her. Her remains are now resting comfortably, and beginning the path to returning to earth in a compost pile we keep just for that purpose each year. Next year (not THIS coming Spring) she will be one with the rich “black gold” of the compost, and will grace our gardens, living on in the veggies and flowers of summer.
We went to Cedar Hill, the nursing care/assisted living facility 10 minutes from here where John’s mother has lived since she broke both hips in two separate falls where she had been living. Her mind had been getting ever weaker, and we knew it was only a matter of time: since she can’t remember she has broken hips and can’t walk without a walker and tries to get up (how she broke the second hip one week after the first), she needs to be in a place where there is nursing care, and she needs to be seat-belted into her wheelchair. She has been, near as I can tell, however, the happiest I’ve ever seen her in her life, as if, when losing her memory, she lost some terrible childhood pain that distorted her ability to be happy, and no longer weighed down with that pain, she is free to be cheerful, kind, and caring, to extents I’d never seen before in her. It is a real pleasure to visit with her, though conversations are limited to short sentences, or she loses the subject while meandering around in the predicate. Yesterday was Christmas, however, and it is a time that people feel loneliness most during the year…at least, I found that to be the case when I was working as a parish priest. We walked in and as she saw us, she burst into tears, which appeared to be of happiness because we were there. She knows us…I think. At least, most of the time she knows John, and she knows I’m there to see her, though often she’s not entirely sure who I am. Sometimes she thinks John is his father or her brother, as well, but mostly she knows he is her son. Anyway, she had her little crying jag and then we had a good visit, including a lovely dinner. This place has a wonderful tradition of inviting families (2 people per resident; they are a small facility with limited space) to come for festive dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Generally, 4-8 families come: they set up family tables in a couple of the activities rooms, complete with tablecloths and decorations, and serve up a very decent meal to their guests. It is as if the family is out to dinner at a restaurant on special occasions. We have gone for every one of those dinners, so we can have a special family time with John’s mother. It is good. I can’t say enough positive about this Cedar Hill place: in my working days, I had to visit many such facilities and I’ve never seen one as nice as this. Still, there is a bittersweet element to such a place and such a time of life for these folks, most of whom did NOT have family with them. There are one or two other residents we’ve become close to, and our heartstrings are pulled when we see them eating in the regular dining room without families. I think they separate the ones with families visiting so those without families there don’t feel so bad. Most of their minds are weak enough so that hopefully, without the reminder of the other families sitting right there, it doesn’t register too much that they are alone.
The rest of the day was quiet, and included naps. And now it’s the second day of Christmas: I have gifts to wrap for the grandkids in anticipation of their visiting, and today I have lunch with a friend. The celebration continues.
And as I look out the window, I see that it is light enough to see out there at 7:09, the days are getting lighter and brighter, Spring WILL come…but after the cold of winter which will undoubtedly very soon descend upon us. Those ever lengthening days will remind us that this, too, will end. Enjoy the season, no matter whether you celebrate Christmas, Channukah, Kwanza, Solstice, some combination of them,…or just life and light.