Tuesday, December 31, 2013

At the end of another year

The last day of 2013 is overcast and dreary, "a winter's day in a deep and dark December," as Paul Simon once said. It seems a fitting marker for a year that had its low moments. My sister died in July, just a month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nothing has made me feel my own mortality more than the death of my younger sister. My parents' five children are now diminished to two, and I am, for the first time in 61 years, the youngest again.

A year ago, after we had endured the loss of at least one close relative each year since 2010, my wife offered this New Year's hope: Let's have at least one year when no one gets sick or dies. It was not to be.

At the close of 2013, we put another year tainted by sadness behind us and look ahead with hope for a better year in 2014. It is the year when I will become eligible for Medicare and come closer to my anticipated full retirement age. For at least 10 years, my wife and I have talked longingly about the time when we would not have to go to work every day, when we could nourish the hobbies we have little time for while working, when we can travel to the places of our dreams, when we can better connect with our grandchildren and friends. That day is still years into the future.

This will be a whole new year, one for which we have made few plans yet, except for the plans we had forgone this year and earlier years as impractical. We plan to spend a weekend with all of our children and grandchildren at a date and time to be determined. We will celebrate birthdays and other milestones. We will try again to make those trips that have been just out of reach — down the length of Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway, to Ocracoke, to Kentucky and Tennessee, to Pittsburgh, to the Rockies and California. We will make a new to-do list for repairs and improvements around the house and hope to check off at least one or two items from the list.

Most of all, we will sit in quiet evenings before the living room fire or on the deck in the cool dusk after a hot summer day and breathe in the blessings we have enjoyed. We will breathe out silent thankfulness for this marriage, this house, this family, this (relative) healthfulness, this life. We will try harder than ever to savor every moment, to recognize joy and to be productive in every opportunity we are given.

I have never been one for New Year's resolutions, but I do look forward to a better year and to doing better with the blessings I am given, when even the difficult years are blessed.

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