Thursday, December 19, 2013

A green Christmas

There's an old saying that a green Christmas means a full churchyard--I guess because the folk knew in the back of their minds that if there wasn't snow and cold to kill off bacteria, bugs, whatever, more people would die. When I was a child, my dad, a hospital administrator of necessity preoccupied always with the hospital census, would say, "A green Christmas means a full hospital." I'm not sure it's fair to apply that to Texas, where Christmas is almost always green. And certainly this year we've had more than our share of ice and sub-freezing temperature--any bugs of any kind ought to have been zapped..
I'm not sure if it's age or what, but I'm acutely aware of illness and death around me this holiday season. A man I greatly admired from my church died, after a long, agonizing battle with Alzheimer's, and I heard today of the death of the father of a friend--a man who suffered frequent bouts with pneumonia and other forms of ill health. A friend fell, knocked himself out, and broke both major bones in one ankle--he's in rehab and hoping to be home Christmas Eve. A neighbor's cousin had surgery, twice, for cancer, and the other day I got a message that my cousin's chemo was not working but was making her a wreck. She cries constantly, is agitated and restless (which I thought was pretty much her normal state anyway). Did I, the care facility inquired gently, want to discontinue the chemo and give her palliative care? Of course I did, but it's a weighty decision to make about another person's life (she is incapable of handling her affairs or making decisions, and I hold power of attorney though I've not seen her for over sixty years; I am her only living relative, which also strikes me as sad; she is in Toronto and I am way down here in Texas). Friends who have been on my prayer list a long time remain there, and I think my prayers get more fervent. As a friend of mine said to me, "There's a world of hurt out there."
Why this season this year? There is of course, no answer. Life goes on. But to me, I have had a wake-up call--again--to reach out to those who are ill or lonely or frightened and to those who grieve, not just at Christmas but all year long. Christmas, the time of rebirth and joy, just seems to make it all more poignant.
There is a passage from the Common Book of Prayer that speaks volumes to me, and I'd like to share it. It's often called the Prayer before Sleeping:

Keep watch dear Lord with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love's sake.

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