Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Days of joy and celebration

Allie and Jon
The first 11 months of this year were only the run-up to two seismic events in our family this December. Nick finishes his undergraduate studies in philosophy next week and will graduate summa cum laude in a small ceremony on Dec. 17. Stealing his thunder is his sister Allison, who will marry Jonathan Ciraulo on New Year’s Eve. What an auspicious date for a wedding! We’ll be hosting more than 200 guests at a nuptial mass, followed by a rollicking reception that will last into 2012.
The older I get the more I appreciate the importance of properly marking life’s milestones. I relish the achievements of our children as they begin to make their way in the world on their own. We add depth and texture to our lives through our communal rituals. We honor one another and bind ourselves together as friends and family by celebrating graduations, marriages, births, anniversaries, holidays, retirements and, yes, even deaths. This is how we illuminate our paths through the darkness, adding oil to the lamps of those we love. These events needn’t be expensive or elaborate, but are distinguished by what we treasure most: time shared together that is rich in substance and meaning, if all too fleeting.
There were moments this year when I wasn’t sure what shape we’d be in on Dec. 31. Ellen and I both started the year badly, with her persistent leg pain (somewhat diminished by surgery) and my recurrent melanoma. I had seven subcutaneous metastases surgically removed this year, five of them in the operating room at OHSU on April 4. That episode was much tougher than I expected. It was a reminder that this disease is grimly tenacious and that I can assume nothing about its clinical course.
My prognosis remains now what it was then: repeated appearance of mets at unpredictable intervals that may or may not advance to visceral organs. I am, in other words, hanging fire. As unresolved as things are, I have no basis for complaint. I ran eight miles on a deserted beach yesterday under a crystalline sky (see banner above). No matter what happens with my melanoma in coming months, I’ve already been blessed with better health than anyone with metastatic disease has a right to expect. I’ll be sipping champagne and toasting my daughter and her newly minted husband when the church bells toll at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Could there possibly a better send-off to the year than that?
Allie and Jon have done us the honor of choosing to be married in Corvallis and wanting the wedding to be as much a home-grown affair as possible. That means Ellen is the wedding planner and I’m the gopher. Decorations will literally come from local gardens and forests, food prepared by the hands of many friends and family, and music performed by talented people who are dear to us. This pulling together of resources for a wedding celebration is a little complicated, but after watching “Father of the Bride” the other night, I think I can pull off my role with more aplomb than Steve Martin. There will definitely be no swans at our reception. Ellen and I are impressed by Jon’s depth of character, and believe that he and Allie will build a marriage that is greater than the sum of what each brings to it.
What an extraordinary time in all of our lives. We are blessed beyond measure for simply being here and able to enjoy these days of celebration without hindrance.

P.S. Allie has just put up a new post on her blog in which she reflects on the joyful, solemn season of Advent. It's definitely worth a read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

mets? What's that?