I was thinking last night about how it has been over a year since Barbara had her last day at work, since her surgery in Nashville, since she came back to Memphis in an ambulance to go into a nursing home for rehab. I would have to check my timeline to see when she went to the hospital from the nursing home the first time, but I’m not sure I want to mark that date as part of my personal annual calendar.
The last time she and I spoke in person was on Christmas 2015, when we had dinner together in her hospital room. On December 30th, she had her first stroke and lost her ability to speak or write, as well as most of her ability to read. Between those two days, I was sick with a flu or flu-like illness, so I did not see her, although we did text some.
These milestones in her final days are brought to my mind both by the calendar as I enter upcoming appointments and by the mentions of Advent (and the liturgical calendar of which it is a part) that have started popping up as we get closer to Christmas.
This is a deeply-felt example of the old saying that to the world, you are just one person, but to the right one person, you are the world. Of course, Barbara was not Jesus; she did not save us all. But she saved me in so many ways that it is hard not to draw parallels between the final days of her life and the calendar based on the events of His, especially when Christmas figures so prominently in both.
I am still living in the house we bought in December of 1996. At the time, we referred to it as our Christmas present to each other and I expected to always think of Christmas as a pleasant season because of that. The next year, some kids broke in and stole our Christmas presents and other stuff, so, no, it did not remain a pleasant memory for long. Even so, it was not a bittersweet memory, as it is now.
For those who celebrate any of the various holidays that roll around at the end of the year, I wish you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Joyous Yule, Happy Eid, Happy Hannukah, and so on. I expect to raise a glass to her memory and go to bed early.