Christmas is upon us. For most folks in America, Christmas is a special time of the year when we set aside self indulgence and go about the business of selecting gifts for those we are closest to. Christians, and other historians recount the journey of three wise men to the birthplace of Jesus where they brought gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold. In today’s terms, this visit would have been from three US Senators bearing money and a couple of bottles of cologne, who would likely leave with the title to the stable and thoughts of somehow regulating the safety of the manger. My, how times have changed. Most folks who participate in this most Christian holiday spend a great deal of their time running about frantically, attempting to procure the perfect gift for those of interest, a nearly impossible task for my generation. You see, if we are to be honest, we have virtually everything we need, most things we want and many things that are evidence of excess in our lives. Mr. Bezos and his minions at Amazon absolutely adore this time of the year, knowing full well that in America, convenience sells, and what can be more convenient than traveling 10 feet or so from your reading chair to the porch to see what the good folks at UPS have deposited after ringing the doorbell that is still chiming as they kick their gift bearing chariot into gear for the next home. Likely as not, the bauble falls into the want category…..
Jeff is a marketing genius, but has yet to find a way to deliver the single gift that ensures that we can appreciate and enjoy the many things we have. The gift that I am speaking about is the gift of good health. Although the medical profession is making great strides in protecting us from the myriad of maladies that exist, there are no guarantees. Over time, even rolling pins and anvils wear down and so it is no surprise that, as we age, stuff breaks, vision fails, hearing becomes less reliable and we all begin ingesting various chemicals and concoctions to keep us operating at some degree of “normalcy”. If we are lucky, the broken part can be repaired, replaced or removed by a skilled surgeon, thus freeing us from the unpleasant effects of the malady. Unfortunately, for many, medical science is limited to providing some form of relief from the pain and a plan to manage a problem that cannot be entirely eliminated by chemistry and sharp instruments. Folks in this position are not interested in a visit from the Senators carrying cologne and money, and in many cases would be more than willing to start over, covered in enough clothing to insure modesty, and forgoing every earthly possession they have.
Just this week, I visited with several old friends, folks who I have grown older with over a very long time. For my younger readers, yes, older folks do talk about health or a lack thereof, a lot. Trust me when I suggest your time to shift focus away from the latest big bertha driver to the arthritis that relegates it to a garage sale is coming. One of my friends is a caregiver to his wife who is in the grips of the Emperor of Maladies, cancer. They are working hard to keep the malignancy from gaining ground. These two are the picture of energy, intelligence and the enjoyment of life. Even so, they would deeply appreciate opening a gift this Christmas and finding an end to the constant specter of cancer that dominates their time. Another friend, himself an incredibly active fellow who has many interests, suffers from a particularly aggravating, and painful condition that limits his mobility. While he is managing this malady well, it takes a toll. I gave him a bottle of fine single malt scotch, cleverly deducing that enough of this stuff would temporarily take his mind off the pain in his leg. Those familiar with my past musings know that I do not like scotch, thinking it entirely suitable only for medicinal purposes and not much else. He loves the stuff, which may be a symptom of something more serious than pain in his leg. Two weeks ago, I delivered a eulogy for a friend who went from diagnosis to the peace of death in a matter of three weeks. He did not have much time to dwell on his fight with cancer before the Master stepped in and called the fight…..
My point is this. After the gifts are opened and everyone is basking in the glow of accomplishment at having delivered something truly useful and appreciated to someone else, I encourage you to sit back and reflect for just a moment on this great gift. If you are laughing and enjoying the moment pain free and reasonably healthy, you have awakened to the wonderful gift of good health. A wise old gentleman, who happened to own a casino in Missouri, once told me that he had enough money to burn a wet mule, but was himself dying of cancer, and didn’t care about the money anymore. He said that without good health, you have nothing. He died four months later, and I will never forget his wisdom.
If you are able to enjoy this sunset, pain free and healthy, good for you. You are the beneficiary of the greatest gift of all!