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The Christmas Letters

I started a Christmas tradition with my children when they were younger.  I didn’t want any Christmas presents from them, what I wanted was a letter.  I wanted them to write me about their year.  What they experienced, what they learned and their goals for the coming year.  They were in grade school when I started this tradition so I have a diary of their lives.  These letters are one of my most treasured possessions.

Their letter writing has evolved over the years.  I think the first year, I received a card from Anthony that just said Merry Christmas signed Anthony.  Not even a Love, Anthony.  The next year I got two lines, Merry Christmas, I love you, Anthony.  Anthony eventually got the hang of it and I got some doozies.  One of my favorites was when he turned 16.  Anthony’s life revolves around two things: food and CARS.  He couldn’t wait to get his license.  16 couldn’t come fast enough for him, we on the other hand could wait a while longer.  His Christmas letter when he was 16 went something like this:

I turned 16 this year, it’s been pretty uneventful, accept for the fact that I got my license.  I’m not doing too bad driving.  I’ve had two accidents of which you know of one, well I guess you know of the other one now.  I brought the street sign home to prove to you it wasn’t my fault . . .  the letter goes on like he’s just told me the weather report.

The letters are the last thing that is opened.  All eyes are on me.  Moral dilemma here:  Do I mention the car accident and watch my calm, at peace husband blow a gasket on Christmas or do I save this little tidbit until December 26th?  And guess what wins out?  I finish reading the letter, hug Anthony and whisper in his ear, “We need to talk”.

Over the years, I’ve read about their triumphs and tragedies, how they overcame their adversities, what they learned from them.  Some years were harder to read than others.  The first time I had breast cancer, Anthony didn’t write me a letter.  It was too raw for him.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to get any letters this year.  Nothing had been said.  Nick was married now, would I still get a letter?  I did.  There were two letters in the tree on Christmas morning with Nick bringing his when he came later.

The letters I received this year touched my soul.  They poured their heart out in their letters.  They each told me how my diagnosis has affected them.  Each explaining how they coped.  What they have learned from watching me battle and how much I am loved.  They were honest and real about their feelings.  Reading about their fear and heartbreak was difficult but each of them ended their letters with hope for the future.

Cancer doesn’t just affect me, it has tentacles that are far reaching.  Every family member is touched by the Big “C”.  Each taking their own journey.  Trying to navigate their gammit of emotions.  They too, experience anger, fear, frustration, and helplessness.  I think it’s harder for those watching to feel joy as easily as I do.  They are watching and want to fix.  It’s painful to watch a loved one go through cancer.  As my son, Anthony said, in his letter.  I was so frustrated and angry because I couldn’t fix it for you.

To read those letters and have each one end with love and hope makes my heart lighter.  It means we are all on the path of healing.


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