This is the time of year when I look through the Christmas cards more carefully.(Remember those? Or do you only get Christmas emails?)
My cards tend to be from people about my own age who live many miles away. But these are people with strong connections that date waaaay back. Their news is sometimes about exotic travel or joy related to the progress of their grown children, but all is not good news either. Many letters involve sickness, parents with dementia, suicide, a spouse fading slowly, joblessness, and other losses and worries.
Even more difficult for me are the friends with children or grandchildren who are ill, some very tragically ill. I wish there were ‘laws’ against children suffering before their parents have bowed out of life, but no.
In all of this there is an amazing quality….the manner in which they face what life throws our way. I’m not sure why it fascinates me to discover how others handle the various crises, but it does. Some seem to be genuinely at peace with the process and move graciously onward, cheering others along. Others work harder than ever to change a system that seems to have wronged someone or something they care for. Others are in pain and try to mask it.
There’s the friend who had a heart attack last year, who just published his first book about his work with airlifts during the Biafran War.
There were those affected by Hurricane Sandy, both on the East coast and in Haiti.
A friend who has a child, 1 of 3 on record EVER, with an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer called sinonasal teratocarcinosarcoma. He spent 2012 having treatments and now has a recurrence of the disease and is undergoing even more treatments. He is 8 years old. Mom & Dad are amazing and make each hospital stay a very positive event…while dealing with their other children.
One “girlfriend”, a Peace Corps friend from the mid ’60s, celebrated her 70th birthday this year. Her daughter has a rare form of cancer, she is a cancer survivor herself. She has traveled a great deal in recent years and includes her daughter and son on these trips when possible. She finds many reasons to celebrate life. She loves being a counselor and continues helping others one day a week. This year, her daughter fitted in a skydive from 15,000 feet between treatments… My friend has located someone from ‘her’ village in West Africa and they are working together these days to provide a medical clinic and a clean water system to the tiny village in need.
I have no “concluding paragraph” for these thoughts of mine…except that my friends amaze me and I learn from them. I also am proud to say that some of these friends ARE younger than me and teach me so much, as do my own son and daughter. I’m certain you too have friends like these. What a journey!