In my family, December has always meant lights in the windows.
Velvety thick red ribbon twisting up the staircase.
Sending cards to friends and family, near and far.
And racing to the mailbox every evening.
And sitting at the top of the stairs with my brother, counting the seconds until we could go clamoring down to the tree.
December meant lighting Hanukkah lights with my Dad and reading our vast collection of Christmas books with my Mom.
December meant singing along to “John Denver and the Muppets” as we drove down to Baltimore.
December meant giving. And cheer. And magic.
It’s no secret that I love December.
(Minus the cold part. That goes without saying.)
But this year, December hasn’t been exactly what I expected.
And I know, I should be quite used to rolling with the unexpected.
But this time, December played a harsh game of dodgeball, and the unexpected reached a new level.
My dad had bilateral knee surgery, that was supposed to be easy…or as “easy” as repeat bilateral knee surgery can be.
Goes without saying, it wasn’t easy.
And the recovery is slow, and painful, and frustrating.
Relying on others for rides and medicine for pain, is isolating and scary and majorly lacking in holiday cheer.
Then out of left field, my mom was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer, and is now prepping for a hysterectomy in early January.
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like a big ol’ cancer diagnosis, yes?
And just for kicks and holiday giggles, my liver is inflamed.
And I’ve been benched from treatment. Again.
As much as I’d like to tell you otherwise, my family spent a good deal of December sitting in stunned shock.
We spent much of December in disbelief that our hopes for a 2014 free of surgeries and recoveries and drug protocols have gone swiftly down the drain, long before the ball has dropped on New Year’s Eve.
I can honestly tell you that I ache for the days when my biggest stressor was sitting in traffic. Or getting a cold. Or the fear of sleeping through my alarm.
(Which, for the record, I have never, ever done.)
I didn’t really know how we were going to dig ourselves out of this slump of shocked, and really quite angry, disbelief. I felt helpless.
Where was our magic? Where was the spirit of the holidays? Where were our lights and cookie swaps and merriment?
And for the record, haven’t we already done this medical journey??
I mean, people, let’s be real here. I bought myself a tri-sectioned pill box as a holiday gift. Yes, they all begin with a P but this pill box is no puppy, nor is it a pony.
(Although in defense of my pill box, it is multi-colored! And has easy-open tabs for “elderly hands!”)
But ya know, I have to admit that when I stop and think about it, the true spirit of the holidays has never been more alive and magical.
Magic doesn’t always have to come in the form of boxes, and puppies, and bows.
The spirit of the holidays is about love, and giving, and holding close those we hold dear.
And in my family, we are blessed with those gifts in abundance.
The true magic of this December is the realization that without even trying, my family has become a well-oiled machine of leaning, and supporting, and loving.
Magic is realizing that we aren’t doing this alone, and being filled with unending gratitude for our family and friends.
We are strong and we struggle, there are moments of ease and moments of frustration, but a strand of lights only illuminates a home when they all make the choice together to rise up, stand tall, and shine on.
So this holiday season, we choose to reach out our hands and invite you to join us. And no matter what you may believe or what obstacle you are facing, I hope you will join us in the spirit of joy, and peace, and magic.