It’s been a busy week . . . but that’s to be expected, you say. ‘Tis the holiday season and the blank spaces on most everyone’s calendars tend to rapidly disappear. There are work parties and church parties and friend parties and family parties and all the parties, one right after the other. There are good deeds to be done and gifts to be bought. There are houses to be decorated and presents to be wrapped and before you know it, Christmas is here and you don’t even know how that happened when all you did was blink.
My daughter and I have a Christmas tradition that I actually began when my children were very small—we bake cookies . . . all kinds of cookies. And then we give them all away. Well, at least the ones we don’t eat . . . or burn . . . or underbake. Those last ones usually do double duty by also falling into the eat column. When they were young, it was just me and I would bake for a few days then prepare my cookie plates and send them to their new homes. As my daughter grew, she began to help, and today that cookie baking tradition has turned into a cookiethon—three days of continuous baking from sun-up (ok, maybe more like 10ish) to sundown and way beyond. We usually put in 12 hour days and we usually have a blast doing it. We post our antics on Facebook and allow the world to watch as we frolic through three days of a baking marathon, fueled by coffee, sugar, and sparkling Martinelli’s cider.
This year was very different, though. Oh, it started off normally enough. Shopping on Saturday night. Making the dough that has to be refrigerated on Sunday. Revving up the ovens that evening and again the following morning. But Monday evening . . . Monday evening our cookiethon took an unexpected turn.
I say unexpected, but I don’t really suppose it was. My sister-in-law—the wife of my husband’s older brother—had been experiencing health issues for a while. Last week she had collapsed and the prognosis was not good. Monday evening she died.
I don’t believe there was a sweeter person in this world and she and my brother-in-law were a perfect match. I won’t go into their life histories because, honestly, it’s nobody’s business but theirs. I’ll just say it was a blessing they found each other . . . and a blessing to the rest of us that they decided to make it permanent.
Now he finds himself alone again. Soon we’ll be traveling to Germantown for her service—and then we’ll face Christmas without her.
That, my friends, is what Life and Death are all about. It is this dance between the two of them, and you never know how long Death will allow Life to lead. At the moment when you least expect it, Death will claim that position and it does not matter that Christmas is coming, or it’s almost their birthday, or the two of you have plans for your life together. It is all meaningless in the eyes of Death.
There are so many people suffering this time of year, so many people who are trying to figure out how to navigate loss, and it doesn’t even have to be recent loss. Years may have passed but the memories have not. And thank goodness, they never will. Despite the pain they hold, what in the world would we do without them? So I ask this holiday season that we all tread lightly with those around us. We never know how much they may be longing for the past. We never know how much they may be hurting over recent loss. We never know if they will be here tomorrow. We never know. And we should always remember that.