The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure but from hope to hope.
The Christmas letter we fear each year finally arrived.
The family that sends this letter includes a friend from school — one of those friends that we were close to decades ago but haven’t seen in years and only connect with at the holidays. She sends a card each year describing the family progress in a newsy letter. At the bottom, she always includes a couple of neatly penned sentences telling us “How nice it would be to get together again”
and “Please stop by if you are ever in our part of the country.”
The picture shows the family, the dog, and all of the kids, now nearly grown up. Usually, there is a mountain in the background and the whole family is arm-in-arm, smiling. They are a handsome, active, and accomplished bunch.
Despite this, as soon as the letter arrives, we scan down the page with trepidation. You see, the woman in the family, our friend, was diagnosed several years ago with breast cancer. We know none of the details, but, each year, amidst the reports of children’s accomplishments and family trips, there is always some brief glimpse of the specter that walks with them. Here or there, we spot things like: “Despite the treatments, I was able to keep up with all of my volunteer activities,”
or “A few cells were discovered on a new biopsy a few months ago,”
or “The small tumors apparently are enlarging.”
Despite this, each letter contains a list of upcoming events and goals. Those few words overwhelm the page.
When the envelope arrives, our thoughts fill with a mixture of relief that she lives and anxiety that she continues to struggle. Her smiling face looks up at us from the family photo.
It has been years — a generation, really — since we spoke or spent any time together, yet we are touched and renewed each year by her message of hope and resilience. We look forward, anxiously, to next year.
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I found your blog through WhiteCoat & Seaspray & I must say you write exceptionally well. I sincerely look forward to reading your posts.
This post reminds me of 2 situations:
I have a similar letter which hits my doormat every year from a buddy in Wisconsin. In the past 18 years, Christmas was the only time we corresponded. Fortunately, a few months ago, I discovered him on facebook. We now correspond more frequently! The second occurrence was a card I received some years ago, where the name of the husband was not shown. Since the card had no return address and I knew the "friend" had moved on, address unknown, I had no way of finding out what had happened. It was very disconcerting. This year's card had an email address on it. I'm back in touch ... hurrah.
I'm glad your friend is alright this year. She sounds like an amazing lady. :)