“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” Ebenezer Scrooge (1843)
One year from now…next Christmas eve… your life will not be the same as it is now. The changes that will occur may be subtle or profound, but the cold hard truth is that nothing stays the same, no matter how we may try to keep it that way. The 364 days ahead of us will bring joy and sorrow, wisdom and pain, anger and enlightenment – all of the the things that make us human. I am reminded of this as I look up from my desk and see a faded newspaper article still pinned to my bulletin board. It was a eulogy of sorts that I wrote a year ago, and somehow I haven’t had the heart to take it down yet. This time last December I was attending the funeral of a friend, an old friend, and yet not someone I had known for a long time, but rather a 97 year old gardener named Marge Saunders. We met about six years ago and despite the agediscrepancy we were kindred spirits and I sensed it the moment I saw the stack of books laying by her favourite chair with a view of the garden – the same garden she had lovingly tended for most of her life. It was also here that she received guests such as myself (in an adjacent chair) and it was in her chair that she passed away – with her books and a cup of tea near at hand, in full view of her favourite purple-berried Callicarpa bush. Marge Saunders was a gardener, an Olympic athlete, a local historian, a motorcycle enthusiast, an explorer, an independent woman, a very curious person and most importantly, my friend. Although she had no family, she was never really alone because the entire neighborhood seemed to look out for her. I was not one of those people who watched out for her on a regular basis, rather I was more of an acquaintance who visited two to three times a year, usually during the holiday season. Our routine was a simple one – a few days before Christmas I would bring her a small tin of home baking (she loved my daughter’s fig pastries), we would sit and talk for several hours and before leaving I would always pole prune some berried English holly from her tree to decorate both our homes. On New Year’s Eve I would drop by with a few poinsettias or paperwhites and wish her a Happy New Year – beyond that, I would see her occasionally at the nursery where I worked. One Christmas several years ago, I gave her a small meteorite fragment as a gift. It wasn’t expensive, but I thought it might be something that she would appreciate. When I came calling the following New Year’s Eve, she insisted that I stay for a while. As she held the meteorite in her hand and looked up at the night sky, she told me that it “staggers the imagination” to hold something that had traveled millions of miles through the universe. And just at that moment I saw the same sparkle in Marge’s eyes that I see in my own daughters when they open a much wished-for gift on Christmas morning. Where others might have said (somewhat sarcastically) ‘thanks for the rock’, she on the other hand, perceived so much more. I guess what I miss the most is her candor, her unbridled love of life – but that life goes on even when she is longer a part of it. So I’m going to post this blog, finally take down my faded newspaper column and enjoy this Christmas for what it really is…just another glorious day to be alive.