The last week has been a difficult one for my family.
My health is not doing as well as we'd like.
My son had his tonsils removed on Friday, and he's feeling a bit blue about having to be restricted in his holiday feasting.
Most importantly, my dad's sister, for whom I am named, died this week. Worse, she died on my dad's birthday.
We have had several beloved family members die during the holiday season in the last couple decades, and I was diagnosed with my cancer during the holidays - which makes this a bittersweet time for all of us.
And yet the Yuletide is my favorite holiday celebration, and our family has a huge number of traditions that we have built up around it. It has always been, and remains, a busy and bustling time full of social and practical obligations and activities.
In the last couple years we have had to cut back and simplify, given the exigencies of the economic times and the waning physical capacities of both my mom and myself. We let each beloved old tradition go reluctantly, regretfully, knowing that next year we will no doubt be forced to give up more.
The empty chairs at the hearth are growing more numerous, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come sits with us at the table. It is impossible to ignore.
And yet, it is also impossible to ignore the joy of having friends and family to share our meals and our homes. At night the moon and the lights shine stained-glass color on the pristine snow, and during the day birds flock to the feeders and bounce along the frosted branches of the trees. The cider and nogs still warm us, and the songs of the season still exalt. The fire on the hearth and the gaily wrapped gifts under the tree are no brighter than the love that glows in our hearts.
We are human, frail and imperfect and impermanent.
We are blessed, every one.