Pictures and video will have to come later, but I should mention that everything has been wonderful!
Messiah was another dream come true -- twice, actually, because we had two back-to-back performances that evening in order to accommodate the audience. The cherry on top of my joy was watching my children in the audience, singing along to some of the songs.
Christmas Eve brought my brothers and dad and families together for dinner at my house, followed by a children's Christmas pageant and a gift exchange. It was so good to have the chance to establish new traditions with so many loved ones close by. Having my youngest brother there was especially nice -- we're all hoping that he enjoyed it enough to consider joining the rest of us here on a permanent basis.
One of the gifts my dad gave me was a framed snapshot of a sunset scene, taken on his cell phone while driving down the highway on December 14, 2005. He had seen me earlier that day at the hospital, as I was preparing to be released. We knew since my surgery on the 12th that I had cancer, but I had not yet gotten the final pathology results when he had to leave. The photo was taken shortly after I called him with the awful pathology news: grade four glioblastoma with a lousy prognosis. The sun was setting, and he stopped and took a snapshot just to capture what he saw at that memorable time. And then as he gave me the framed picture he pointed out the sunset, which was quite red, and he reminded me of the old adage: "red skies at night, sailor's delight". That hopeful symbolism was a tender mercy at such a dreadful moment.
This Christmas morning was my fourth Christmas since that fateful day. Getting one more Christmas with my family was what I wanted most, and on top of that I received many generous gifts from family and friends. My children were angels, squealing with delight at every package bearing their name, and even helping dig out and straighten up after all the unwrapping was over.
In the afternoon we went to a local nursing home for our traditional caroling and Christmas cheer with family and friends. We had a big group this time, and we met some charming and grateful residents who were eager to talk to us. We returned home for wassail and cookies, and then had the missionaries come to our house for dinner.
As I finished the day I noted in my journal that all of the events of the holiday were reminders of good things -- life, love, faith, tender mercies, and miracles -- things that surround us every day.
The next day we hit the road to see my mom. We also saw my aunt and uncle, who were visiting from Chicago, and we visited my grandmother in a nearby nursing home.
My grandmother is twice widowed and descends from a long line of healthy women. At age eighty-nine she had only been to the hospital to give birth, visit relatives, and heal from injuries sustained during a fall. But a few months ago she had a rapid decline in health, and although she is now living closer to us, the version of her that we always knew seems to be moving farther away. Long gone is the original Scrabble master who was virtually unbeatable. I recognize many neurological changes as I visit with her, and I have a greater appreciation for what my own neuro tests are looking for. But it's still good to have more chances to see her and express our love and enjoy what remains to enjoy.
Everything surrounding this season is good. It's good because Christmas is about the One who can heal and bless any situation and make it good.