Sunday, December 25, 2005

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0031 - Christmas Cancer

It’s Christmas. And yet the first thought of the day is not Christmas cheer, stockings, turkey, or presents…it is CANCER!

Last night, my wife, my eldest son and I (my youngest son decided church wasn’t where he wanted to be) went to our local Anglican church for the Christmas Eve eucharist. We went mainly because it is something we traditionally do; I went chiefly because I didn’t want to be the humbug who said “No”, but also because I wanted to see my friends in the choir, especially one person who told us at Thursday’s choir practice that they have found something in her breast that requires a biopsy as soon as possible. I spoke to her, a nurse in the choir, and my naturopath before taking my seat in the congregation alongside my family and all the others ready to sing the carols we all love.

But the word hangs in the air – CANCER – my cancer is already diagnosed and ready for battle. Her diagnosis, we hope, will be different; the surgeon and pathologist will discover it is nothing more than a benign growth. That would definitely be the best way to end 2005.


Last night, as another part of our home-grown tradition, we read one of our many Christmas books. It is a tradition which owes its origins to my wife’s family. Her father would read The Littlest Angel every year. If you’ve never read this story, it is well worth the effort of finding a copy. The most memorable reading for me, as I gradually wormed my way into their family over the years of dating and then being married to their daughter, was the Christmas of 1988. Father was in his hospital bed and we were gathered around him. He couldn’t read the story, so I agreed to do the reading on his behalf. The story speaks of all the good things of our life, the beauty of nature, the gifts of creation, the wonder of childhood. The words caught in my throat a couple times, but I managed to get through it all. Father died a week before my youngest son was born.

Last night, the atmosphere was more cheerful, buoyed by gratitude and thanksgiving that we have one another and our traditions to keep us warm. We read A Wish for Wings That Work, each person taking turns reading a couple pages and showing the fantastic illustrations to everyone gathered by our Christmas tree. Like The Littlest Angel, the lesson was simple: we are at our best when we take our strengths and use them in the service of other people instead of wishing for things that can never be. I love these simple lessons. To me personally, they are so much more relevant than a recitation of the Nicene Creed.


Today, we will revel in each other’s company, receiving and making calls to relatives, maybe watching some of our new DVDs or listening to our new CDs; I will watch Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal square off as the Lakers fight the Heat and maybe even catch some of the San Antonio/Detroit game. My wife tells me that I will definitely be helping with meals ;>)
But behind everything, there is that word again – cancer. It will not cancel Christmas for us. It will simply tug at our sleeves throughout the day, reminding us that nothing can be taken for granted. Maybe that is the strange gift this word brings to us today.

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