Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Love in the Old, Love in the New

And so ends a year that was both the worst and the best in my life so far.

Three cancer diagnoses, two deaths, surgeries, illnesses, and a near-death experience for me -- in ways it felt as though we were the Children of Job, a family cursed. For the most part, we chose not to make it mean that. Life Happens, I reminded everyone, And while we often don't get to choose what happens, we always get to choose what we make it mean.

I miss my sister, but at least I am missing only one, and not three out of the four. The long nights sitting at Caro's bedside whispering to her to get up, to get out of bed, to live the rest of her life, how ever long that was -- those nights paid off. She got out of bed, she did her chemo, and she is living her life. The hours and hours with Tess on the phone, urging her to choose life, to choose mental and physical well-being, to choose herself and get out of an abusive marriage -- those hours paid off. She will be flying home to California on January 1. And the hours spent with Granddad, loving him, caring for him, telling him it is ok to go home -- those hours, too, paid off. He died peacefully, before the pain from the cancer grew too great.

And through all this, I discovered that I was not alone. I was not alone in my loss, my pain, or my suffering. The world is full of it. Nor was I alone in getting through this year. I've been truly blessed with friends who are compassionate and loving. I learned a lot from them and through them this year. A breakdown in my health brought a breakthrough in Living. I learned that my own vulnerability brought out the best in people. I learned that people are inherently good. That people want to help, to give back, to contribute. I learned about the intimacy of suffering *with* others rather than suffering alone. And I learned that I am enough. That I am enough for myself, and my family, and my friends, and where I grow thin or tired or worn, someone will provide the energy I need to continue.

I have friends who held me the night my sister died. They offered no comforting platitudes, only the comfort of their bodies, warm and loving, pressed against mine. The antidote to grief is love, and they were fountains of it.

I have a friend who took care of me when I was sick, 500 miles from home. So sick I didn't recognize the seriousness of my illness, so sick that I spent three weeks on home health care after two weeks in the hospital. He was there for me in a way that I never thought anyone would be, in a way I've always tried to be there for others, and his willingness to do whatever it took to see me healthy again was a lesson in the power of my own vulnerability to move others to be better people.

I have friends who gave of themselves and enriched my life and I am grateful, so grateful, for the joy and laughter and the openness and the tears. They made this year a great year for me, one I will never forget.

Soon this year ends. Soon I go to the airport to retrieve the man I love, and spend the remaining hours of this year doing those things and feeling those things which I intend to carry forward into the New Year. And foremost of it all, is Love.

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