Long ago, I worked at a community college in South Carolina. A group of us was hired across the same time period, and as the new kids, we spent a lot of time together. Later, when our office space was being remodeled, we had to relocate, and I shared space with two of them; we speculated that since we had louder voices, we got the office space in the library that was further away from the books and the students. The remodel took longer than expected, so we were office mates for more than half a year.
Yesterday I found out that the husband of one of them died suddenly over Thanksgiving. He wasn't sick; I'm still not sure exactly what happened.
I didn't know him well, but I'm still feeling shock and sadness. He was 62. I have many friends and colleagues who are in that age range. At age 49, I am not too far away from that age myself. These days, 62 seems a rather young age to die.
My best friend from high school who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March had been doing better. But over Thanksgiving, she found out that she had brain tumors.
Last night I responded to the news of my friend's husband's death by coming home and making Christmas cookies. I was planning to do this anyway. I made a bet with a colleague back in the waning days of summer, and I lost the bet.
It's a bet I was happy to lose. I was expecting that more full-time faculty would be made part-time by Christmas. I was expecting more classes to migrate online with no onground component. So far, however, we're all safe. Safe-ish.
My spouse ate one of the broken cookies and pointed out that it's not Christmas yet. Still, I'll be happy to give my colleague cookies this week. It needs to be this week because we're scheduling the cookie delivery for ultimate enjoyment, in between his bouts of chemo and his scheduled surgery.
In these days, when the darkness seems to be closing in from all sides, I try to hold fast to the Advent texts of light shining in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This week, the Advent texts return us to the story of John the Baptist, the one famous for standing up to the forces of empire and lost his head for it. He also announced the coming of Christ.
And he cautioned everyone who came to him by saying "I am not the Messiah." And yet, his actions show that just because we cannot save everyone (anyone?), we still have work to do.
So we make the Christmas cookies. We comfort those who mourn. We send cards to those who struggle. We look out for those alone in an alien land. We beat back the darkness in any way we can.
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