I rarely write a "Christmas letter". This year I was moved to do so and I have had quite a few people respond so I thought I would share it with you. Perhaps you, too, will find something useful in my letter.
So many Christmas letters are accounts of a year of things “done”. We did this, we went there etc. And that’s great. For me, though, this year isn’t so much about things “done” but rather the theme of “time”.
Not having enough of it. Stopping to capture and remember in crystal clarity a moment in time. Realizing that my life, any life really, is just a teeny tiny drop in the bucket of time. Watching my life radically change in a single second of time. Everywhere I looked this year I was confronted with time.
In July 2015 we discovered that Maverick had cancer. From that moment in time my heart started to hope and weep at the same time. I hoped to give him the best time he had left. I hoped to have more time and I wept at the thought of his passing.
For years Michael and I had a dream to take the dogs (Maverick especially) to the ocean. Oh, how he loved the water. Lake Powell, creeks when hiking, our pond in the backyard, if there was water, he was in it. So, to us the ocean was the big kahuna of water. We were planning a trip in August 2016 but with his diagnosis we moved it up to January 2016. I am SO glad I listened to that small quiet voice that said, “Go NOW! You don’t know how much time to you have left”.
So, we rented an RV and took a road trip to California in January. Standing among the sequoias and coastal redwoods that are THOUSANDS of years old really humbles you and reminds you that your life, however long, really is just a tiny drop in the bucket of time. You come away contemplating all the things those trees have seen. All the changes in the world in their lifetime and all the changes yet to come. I came away wishing I could ask the trees, “What lessons have you learned? What can you share with me?”
We made it to the ocean and I can honestly say that it was one of the best days of my life. I sat on the beach watching my husband play with the dogs and I wanted to memorize every single thing about that moment. The way the sand felt under my toes. The way the sun warmed my face. The sound of the waves crashing on the sand. The way the most important people in my life were having the time of their life. I just sat there and soaked it all in. To every cell of my body I wanted to remember this. Yes, I took pictures and one now hangs in my hallway so that every time I see it I am reminded of the best day of my life. Those precious moments when a long standing dream came true.
In April I watched my niece, Monica; marry a very nice guy, Corey. It was a beautiful wedding and again, I caught myself grabbing a moment to just memorize every detail. Her beautiful smile, his happy laugh, my friends sharing in this wonderful life event. I very much look forward to getting to know this young man much better as time goes along.
In May I took a trip with a girlfriend to Arizona and once again I was reminded of time. Saguaro cacti don’t grow an arm until they are 75-100 years old! While not as old as the redwoods that’s still pretty dang old for a plant! During a hike I saw my first “century plant” which is really an Agave Americana plant. These live 10-30 years and at the end of their life they bloom once and it’s spectacular. Driving through Arizona and seeing the saguaros again made me think “What have they seen in the last 100 years?” So many changes and I’m sure so many things that have remained the same.
On July 5th Michael and I returned home to find Maverick unresponsive. He was alive but just laying there; he didn’t even pick up his head when we walked in. We scooped him up and rushed to the vet. All the time I was hoping…when the x-ray came back we knew the cancer had returned. He had been absolutely symptom free for a year and fine the day before and here he was, dying. One moment, one word and my world changed. It’s amazing to me how easily your mind can disconnect from your body. You can go through the motions of life and be absolutely numb. Our beloved companion, friend, guide, and teacher passed from this world to the next on July 6th. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I miss him so much. We all do. Now, I’m having a hard time sending out Christmas cards that are signed “Michael, Jennifer, Jasper and Stanley” without Maverick. He was such a part of my life, our life, for so long that it seems so wrong not to put his name down. To be 100% honest, quite often it feels like he is just in the other room. Like he keeps walking out as I walk and in and I just miss him. I don’t know if that will change, this is my first experience with a close personal death and it’s all so new to me.
In October my brother married the love of his life. To be honest, I never thought it would happen. I thought he would stay a bachelor his whole life. As I sat in the church I was overcome with happiness for him. I’m not the type to cry at weddings, but at his I did. He waited such a long time to finally find the right person. So many moments of his life he was by himself. To know that he isn’t alone anymore, well, it just made me so happy that his moment in time came that I found myself crying in the pew. It really was a celebration after such a long wait I was so happy to be there to share that moment with them.
I sit here right now, thinking about all these moments of 2016. When you look at them individually you see some that were really wonderful and some that were absolutely crushing. But, when you look at the whole picture you see life. I found this quote about life and it seems to sum up 2016 perfectly.
“Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.”
~L. R. Knost
May you all have a breathtakingly beautiful life,