My house is so cozy. I’m stretched out on the living room floor in front of the fireplace, with the Christmas lights on and a giant mug of tea sending up curls of smoke. I’m laughing as I watch a Top Gear marathon, which really is the best show on television. And it’s eleven days to Christmas.
The other day, Wendy reminded me of a Norman Vincent Peale quote: “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” And that’s exactly right. It’s sparkling and warm and beautiful and friendly and safe and happy. To me, Christmastime just feels like home.
But to just tell you this and leave it here wouldn’t really be honest. The second side of the story isn’t really mine to tell, and so I’ve been erring on the side of not saying much about it. But that’s meant that I’m not really saying much of anything – here, or in person, I think. And perhaps, as much as it’s not my right to tell it, it may not be my right to decide that it not get told, either. So here goes. I hope it’s the right decision.
I have two friends with breast cancer, and they’re sisters. Tracy has been fighting it for nine years, and has been in the hospital for nearly a month. Her youngest sister Jamie is having a double mastectomy on Monday, after being diagnosed last week. And the cosmic unfairness of it literally leaves you breathless.
Tracy’s been heavily sedated and unable to speak since being intubated several weeks ago. And I just miss her so much. She’s got the office next to me, so I can hear her “Down With the Sickness” ringtone, she can hear how often I sneeze, and we can hear when we IM each other jokes that make each other laugh out loud. She’s the one who tells me how to handle my bosses, my staff, my family, and all my ridiculous romantic episodes – the last real conversation we’ve had, on the 20th, she was even asking me about that, while she was waiting for a bed in Oncology. She started out as my boss, and has ended up as my sarcastic, hysterical, unstoppable honorary big sister.
Jamie and I became friends after Tracy and I set her up on what is now recognized, by all parties involved, as The Worst Blind Date of All Time. And while she could have chosen to hate me forever, she decided it would be more fun to become friends and make fun of me for it forever. Somehow, around Jamie, you end up laughing more than you imagined you would, doing things you never imagined you would, and having a better time than you imagined possible.The idea of someone like that being sad and afraid just tears your insides to shreds.
They are young and smart and funny and caring and they believe that anything is possible for the people they care about. They are just plain good people. To say they don’t deserve any of this is a cliche, and an obvious one. Because nobody deserves this, nobody on earth. And frankly, even just watching them and their family go through this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.
So yes, Christmastime is beautiful and makes me so happy, not least because I seem have to reawakened an ability, which I haven’t needed in some time, to compartmentalize. I try not to feel guilty for those moments in which Christmastime does make me happy, when I remember that, even in this most beautiful of seasons, people who shouldn’t have a moment of sadness are wracked with it.
I’m sorry to be writing something so unhappy at such a wonderful time of year. Somehow, they’re not mutually exclusive, no matter how much I wish Christmas could fix even this. I’m naive and fortunate enough to not have had to consider this much before. But maybe it’s possible to appreciate Christmas in a way that sends thoughts and prayers to the people who need it most. I hope so, anyway.