Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Cards Received

I think it was last year (but perhaps it was the year before) that I reflected on why I send out Christmas cards, and especially why I continue to send them to people I have not seen or spoken to in many, many years.  This year, however, it was some cards received that have given me pause, and so I shall write here the thoughts they triggered in me --- even though I feel there is more reflection to be done (and more prayers said) on these matters.

Yesterday I received three Christmas cards from friends (no, I haven’t sent mine yet --- but soon!!).  I write now what I read and thought as I opened each card.  First, however, to keep things in perspective I must document some words I read in this morning’s Office of Readings:

You are good at excusing and justifying your own deeds,
and yet you will not listen to the excuses of others.
It would be more just to accuse yourself and to
excuse your brother.

If you wish others to put up with you,
first put up with them.

-- The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a’Kempis

The first card I opened yesterday was a simple card, as were the handwritten words from my relatives:  “We’re still here.”  They don’t speak of events in their lives, but from their return address I know they still live in the home near where I grew up, and still attend the same church, near the Catholic elementary school which long ago I attended.  While most of my cousins live in places around the world (of those I am aware), these two stayed in the old neighborhood, where they raised their children, and likely will die.  I felt a calm reading their simple greeting; they are leading a good life.

The second Christmas card I opened yesterday was from a former co-worker and his wife.  At one point I was in their will, promising to raise their kids in their Jewish faith, if necessary.  Their Christmas greeting had pictures of their kids, grandkids, and the Arlington cemetery headstone, where mom this year joined dad in rest.  Their letter detailed their extensive travels around the world, the many countries and sites they visited --- and the many more they plan to visit next year!  Their retirement is so unlike my cousins’, and yet I see a goodness and joy in their family photos, and I feel happy for them.  I know of the sacrifices they made to get to this stage of their lives.  I smiled at what I read, and what I saw, and I remembered when so long ago we were close friends together.

The last card I opened yesterday was from Sister Margaret Mary, Sr. Peg.  I met her many years ago, when she helped care for developmentally disabled young girls in a facility run by her order.  The facility long since closed, but Sr. Peg and I have kept in contact, and we always remember each other (at least) at Christmas.  Her words on the Christmas card were personal, but this year (for the first time) she included a general letter to all her friends.

“If you are reading this note you have been blessed with another year of life : ),” she begins.  And she goes on to tell how she visited the doctor in October for an angiogram, and had a heart attack there.  Her heart was shocked; she was put on life support, and her Sisters called --- and the doctors said that if she “made it through this (night) it was NOTHING that they as doctors did.”  Her Sisters stayed with her day and night, praying.

“WOW!!!!” she wrote.  “The power of prayer!  Needless to say I WOKE UP and said: ‘WHAT HAPPENED?’”

“I know I shouldn’t have gone in for that test!”

Ah, that’s the Sr. Peg I know and love.  She then writes: “I am grateful to God to be able to thank Him each day for LIFE and to thank Him for the gift of our friendship … Trust in Him always and He WILL take care of you.”  Sister Peg now serves the senior citizens in her area of Rhode Island.  “God is indeed good and I love Him more and more each day!”  She still exudes the joy I have always loved in her.

So what do I make of these friends and their information and greetings?  I think I was initially inclined to compare and judge --- until I read those words (above) of Thomas a’Kempis.  But it is not for me to judge, and as Sr. Peg reminded me, it is only for me to thank and trust Him, each day, for LIFE, for my life.

At one time, all of these friends and I were “on the same page,” if you will.  We were at the same stage of life and had similar priorities.  Now years later we are in differing places, with differing priorities.  Is one of us more “right” than another?  Certainly I cannot know about these three --- but you know I often question the “rightness” of my own actions.  What then should I make of these three friends and their Christmas greetings?

I will praise God for the lives of these, my friends, and all those whom He brings into my life.  I will thank Him for the blessing of knowing them, and how they influenced my life, making me who I am today.  And I will go forth living my life, loving those He brings into it, that perhaps one day they too may look back on our times together, and be able to give thanks, that together we made them who they will turn out to be.

God is indeed good, and I love Him
more and more each day!

Oh, one final thought:  That facility which cared for developmentally disabled young girls, where I first met Sr. Peg --- a number of those girls are now women in the facilities of the organization I joined this year.  Now it’s my turn to take care of them.  When I do finally get around to sending my Christmas cards this year, I’ll put in a note telling Peg that’s what I am now doing.  I think she’ll be glad.

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