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(Pink Floyd reference)

(This one is for two Claudias, and for Helen (in memoriam) who I always used to kid about having Sid Barrett (an original member of Pink Floyd who was not her neighbor) as a neighbor 🙂 )

It IS that time of the year. For so many, it is a time of good cheer, of seeing loved ones, family and friends, of great food and pleasant surprises, a time that takes us back to childhood, if we are not still children (and secretly, of course, we all are, aren’t we, still children in a sense?). As the songs describe, there is the hustle and bustle, there is the music and the weather and the smells and the sounds and the sheer JOY of it.

If we are fortunate enough to have young children or grandchildren or young nieces and nephews, there is that fantastic reminder of the wonder of it all as we look into their eyes, as we walk them through the shops and along the streets and finally, if we are lucky, can watch their sleepy-eyed, but wide-eyed, exploration and delight as they rush to the Christmas tree on the most special day of the year for many of us.

As we get older, though (and for some of us, regrettably, that means as “old” as four or five or six years old, after all), we are burdened to one degree or another with loss. The older we get, the more likely it is that we have this burden.

I am reminded of that everyday when I talk to others who are now or who have cared for others with cancer.

There is not much new to say in that regard. We are all aware of it, if we live in what one writer aptly titled CancerLand.

Grieving and sorrow and depression at this time of year, of course, are not limited to those who live in CancerLand, and some of us seem to forget that, wrapped up, understandably so, in our memories and throes of loss.

Lots of people suffer at this time of year, whether it be from the memories and grief and loss mentioned above, cancer or otherwise, or economic woes, homelessness, joblessness, or other family problems, a child in trouble for whatever reason, perceived slights, selfishness, unexplained absences from family rituals.

Burned turkeys.

You know. It runs the gamut.

And that doesn’t even account for the stress that is, in my opinion, put on most of us unduly to make it something special. There are lights to hang, both inside and out, a tree to deal with, either real or artificial, ornaments and decorations to display everywhere within our territorial boundaries, there is food to cook, there are cards to send, there are phone calls to make, there are people to pick up at airports or bus terminals, there are planes or buses to catch or drives to make, there is the shopping and the worrying about perfect gifts. We know the drill.

Today, I talked to some friends, cancer survivors and caregivers, about people we have not seen for awhile. People who used to make us laugh with their presence, people that we miss a great deal. They were an interesting lot, these people we spoke of. Some were deeply religious while others were clearly atheists. Some were prudes, to be frank, while others were apparently orgiastic fiends :). They ran the gamut, I am trying to say, but when we were all together, we made each other laugh. We were able to cry and gripe and express our fear with each other.

We miss them, those of us who were talking today.

They are not dead. Well, okay, maybe one or two of them is dead and I know that shouldn’t be funny, and it most certainly is not, but part of what we talked about today is that when we were laughing so hard and so loud and so much, we were laughing at our own mortality. We were overcoming our fear of it, perhaps, or at least, yes, that is it, we were learning to deal with it. Together.

It is not a bad thing that many of them are now missing in action, as it were. For the most part it means that they have moved on, not BEYOND, but on, no longer interested in hanging out in CancerLand, and that is almost always a good thing.

Still, they are missed.

And, frankly, loved.

Here’s my point, my new point: today my son and I were tooling along in my “if I’m dying I’m dying in a nice ride” ride, and he asked, “So, dad, if that Doctor had been right last year, you might not be here right now, right?”. The doctor, Onco Man, had advised that I might have as little as 10 months to live. June of ’07. He was wrong, of course.

I said, “Yeah, Ry, I would probably be lying in bed with an oxygen tank, like our neighbor over there, if she is still around, taking morphine every four hours right about now. If I was still here. And if he was right.”

And here is my point: to all of you who are still here, defying the odds or simply (simply?) benefiting from the treatments you have received, to all of you who are still with us, and who still make me laugh when I see you, who still make me cry when you want to, who make me proud to be part of this large community, albeit one I would recommend others avoid if at all possible:

Shine on, you crazy diamonds!