“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.”
St. John Henry Newman
A rainy December Saturday is the perfect time for reflection and to get a short Christmas letter together. We said last goodbyes to some good friends in 2021, three in the last two months. We’ll miss their company and just knowing they are there. We’ve joined in prayer for each that they have been welcomed home. “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” Each one was unique and precious and unrepeatable and irreplaceable. As we turn the corner into our fourth quarter century, this Christmas and end of year season, natural for reflection, has special poignancy.
Not to lapse too deeply into Irish maudlin, but at nearly seventy-six, we are mindful that the road ahead is nowhere near as long as that which is receding in the rearview mirror. This stretch of road is not a regret; but as Bill Belichick would tell us, “It is what it is.” We benefit greatly from the perspective of how dear each new sunrise is. Another Belichick aphorism is, “You are what your record says you are.” Again, not as troubling as it once might have been. Well into our eighth decade, what once seemed so critical to happiness, success, keeping score, and keeping on track has simplified and become less frantic, more at peace: small acts of kindness are not so small, a smile from a stranger, a smile from a friend, a smile from our beloved so much more meaningful. And each of you ever more significant to us.
Our former pastor at St. Patrick Church on Smith Hill in Providence, Father James, presided over one such funeral this week. He reminded us that happiness comes not from temporal achievements or the praise of others or the accumulation of stuff or success at bending the will of others. Happiness is derived from virtue, wonderment and gratitude. Wonderment at the true and beautiful that envelops us with natural marvels and good companions for the journey. Gratitude in our hearts as often as we can gather it to ourselves. None of it limited by time.
We have much to be grateful for surrounded by the wonder of natural things here on Aquidneck Island. Not the spectacular Colorado mountains where we lived so many years ago or the mountains and lakes of Maine where we lived many years after that, but the salt marshes, farmland and wooded trails, and, of course, the river and the ocean beaches. We scarce can take it in.
And more. So much more. Four grown children who have made many more good choices than lamented ones and matured into decent, loving human beings. Seven grandchildren from one to thirteen, each rare and wonderful with their own grace, eccentricities, goofiness, wonder of life, and childlike beauty. A parish church we can walk to with plenty to keep us spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally well-nourished with purposeful activity, friendships, worship, and life. And our greatest blessing right here in our two-bedroom downsized bungalow: fifty-five years shared together in our cherished marriage next month. The radiant heat from the woodstove heats our home on blustery cold New England winter days, and plenty of wood is cut and split in the woodshed. Twinkling, joyful, brightly colored lights around the doors, in the windows, and along the rail of the deck. The wooden creche made for us with careful attention by Rita’s Dad and filled with the exquisite ceramic figures of the Nativity made by Jack’s mother so many years ago.
Life is full here in Portsmouth.
Let us resolve to be makers of peace, gratitude and love for one another; may we be welcoming havens for each other and unafraid of the future and not regretful of the past. God is good.
God’s blessings on you and yours and a most Merry Christmas,
Love in Christ,
—– Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God —–