“Things can never again be as they are now.”
That illuminating thought gambols about my brain this Christmas season like a fully loaded sleigh and eight hefty reindeer.
The thought arrived and took residence in my mind without fanfare, but with profundity.
The soft rock duo, Seals & Crofts, came up with a similar axiom — though not as absolute — in 1973: “We may never pass this way again.”
I assure you, we won’t.
I thought my thought — “Things can never again be as they are now” — the other night as that wingless guardian angel, Clarence, tried to convince George Bailey that: “You see … you’ve really had a wonderful life.” The frothy spectacle played out on the flat-screen in my family room.
I received further enlightenment as I considered the blessing of going through life with people I cherish. Like a restaurant gift card or a bag of Idaho potato chips, it’s a grossly under-appreciated gift.
Who was speaking truth within the confines of my skull? God or myself? I’m certain it wasn’t me.
“Give thanks, Jim, for every morning that arrives with sunshine spilling into your bedroom,” the voice said. “This is a one-off, man; treasure it! Accept the moment for what it is – a miracle.
“Should you die in the next 24 hours and cross eternity’s frontier, you’ll be in heaven … not here. Life is not perfection, but it is breathtaking. Appreciate!”
Just as my high school graduation is a moment in time never to be repeated so shall this moment evaporate, never to be in my possession again.
Every day that slips away takes a toll on my physical frame. One more day lived; one less remaining. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow observed: “The tide rises, the tide falls.” He spoke of the inevitability of death. At that time, he represented the wisdom of 72 New England winters.
In modern society we avoid thinking of death. We welcome distractions.
Those of us fortunate to have reached our eighth decade of life — and if you’re not yet in your 70s, you soon shall be! — think frequently of death. Those thoughts are not necessarily morbid. They are quite sensible.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall die, or the next day or the next. It’s all posted, I believe, on the giant split-flap schedule board in the universe’s Central Train Station. (I jest.)
My mother, who’ll soon be 96, speaks candidly, even bravely, of death. She’s comforted by the prospect of a joyous reunion with my father who passed 15 years ago, and with countless relatives who toiled for a century on America’s Great Plains. But she wonders why God has left her in this “veil of tears.”
We presently face questions without answers.
My wife, Hedy, and I recently lost a beloved friend of more than 30 years. Non-communicative at the end, her eyes were open but it was questionable as to what she could see. We held her hands in her hospital room, carried on one-sided conversations, and prayed for her.
At one point, Hedy asked her to move a finger if she could hear us. She didn’t move a finger; rather she lifted her left hand and shook it as if for effect. That precisely mirrored her personality. Hedy and I laughed as our eyes moistened.
I was certain she’d recover.
She didn’t. She died three days later.
At 74, my life of late has acquired a wraith-like appearance — a translucent quality —that I’ve not known before. What’s important and why? Why am I so sensitive to life’s futilities?
Things that used to be inexplicable seem less so. Things previously hidden are being revealed. Why?
Perhaps I’m getting closer to my own final scene. Maybe the author of my tome is dropping nuggets of truth.
The first Christmas — not George Bailey’s fiction — saw, astonishingly, the creator of the universe step into his creation.
God came in the form of the Christ Child in a manger, sullied by the musk and muck of a cowshed. Indigent shepherds and well-healed Wise Men came to pay tribute. They were received.
They knew something we should know, but often don’t: Things will not remain as they are.
Christmas has changed everything.
Jim Carnett lives in Costa Mesa.
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