My Christmas card to a dear old friend, 15 years older than I, was returned marked “undeliverable.” I correctly feared that he must have died, soon learning from an obituary internet search that he has been gone four months. None of his children either knew how to contact me or thought of it. In the ‘old days’ mail would sometimes come back marked ‘deceased.’ I remember the jolt at seeing this word but at least one knew. Without the internet, now one might not know. My friend was a newspaper man and of great integrity and kindness. He wrote through the Cuban missile crisis and the civil rights movement in Birmingham, and then moved on to New York and St. Louis. His wife was my best friend from early adulthood. She died in 1993 from leukemia, symptoms of which, until 3 weeks before her death, were thought to be from a lingering strep throat.
His death closes a long chapter and I am filled with sadness. We grieve, if we are honest, for ourselves, more than the one gone. The shared memories, the history, the knowing of one another are no more. All this now floats over me and mingles with the family that gathered yesterday for Christmas dinner, 21 in all. I am sad that only my eldest has memories of him and his wife and their children. Life seems in pieces, segments, not a flowing. Nearby, a dear friend lies dying from pancreatic cancer eight houses away from me. Sweetly, there is a gift for her to enjoy from her bed– snow began Christmas night and by today was four inches and especially lovely. My area has not had Christmas snow since 1944. I never knew how pretty the holiday lights look twinkling through the flakes. Life continues for me, for which I am grateful.