You can’t really see us in this picture, but there we are. Other than rampant overeating and dogs underfoot, we have had a non-traditional Christmas Eve. Tonight my family and buddy Steve strolled through the Chinese Lantern Festival. We ate very well at El Ranchito, and the boys had their second-ever picture with Santa (they were 7 months old in the first one). I couldn’t decide about going to church tonight, then at the last minute suddenly knew that we needed – that we must – go to church, so we did. We ended up at a small Methodist congregation nearby, for a quiet, lovely service of lessons and carols, and then Eucharist. I knelt at the rail and looked down at my empty, open hands and waited, expecting them to be filled, and they were. I fought the urge to stretch out my arms and lay my head down on the altar and let go, break loose. I wanted to linger and dig my fingernails into the wood and wait for the minister’s hands to touch mine. I wanted to look her in the face and ask The Big No-No Question: WHY?
In between the singing there were readings, and in the tiny spaces between sentences and breaths, there was Mark in the recliner, our last Christmas together, him clutching his head, suffering, depressed, miserable, angry – mostly with me, but the boys got it too. Once the holidays were behind us, his emotional pain improved, but please note that, just like magical honeymoons and blissful days bonding with your newborn, the dying process doesn’t happen like it does in the picture shows either.
As John Lennon said, “So this is Christmas.” So it is. Instead of Mark sequestering himself in the bedroom to wrap presents and then conking out beside me, my bed is full of Stephen Sondheim, and bags of stuff that I rushed to buy this morning that still has to be wrapped. I have been ordered by my sons to “WRAP PRESENTS.” So I will.
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