Orion is sprawled across the southeastern rim of the sky with his trusty dog Sirius at his heel. All of the winter stars twinkle with a cold blue light. The first sifts of what I call a sugar snow drifted from the clouds today, but they are clearing and leaving behind a sparkly sky that reflects the whirls of snow that fly up like feathers when we step out. Joe and I are headed to town to decorate the shop for Christmas. We have in mind a tool-themed Christmas tree for the big plate glass window and the van is piled with lights and the scratchy limbs of the artificial tree I used twenty years ago to display the ornaments I sold. It was up in the attic with all of the other memories gathering dust beneath the eaves. The walnut cradle I made that rocked both my boys to sleep. The wooden crib they slept in after that. An old high chair. Boxes of toys and books set aside for the grandchildren we hope to have one day. The odds and ends we took out of the house when we were remodeling. So much love tucked up there.
Love is the bravest thing most of us do in our lives. To love something means to be willing to take the inevitable pain of loss that will surely follow. This has been on my mind since Gus disappeared. But it’s not just Gus. Perhaps part of aging is that we begin to recognize that loss will surely happen in our lives. Joe and I are at such a sweet spot in our relationship. We are best friends and the hours fly when we are together. We have raised two fine boys and launched them out into the world, and although we miss them, we now have time to turn again to each other.
When we park the van in the town full of Christmas magic, we step out into a quiet night lit by swags of lights and the glitter of softly falling snow. We hold hands and my heart fills to bursting. This is love and in this season of God’s love I want to drink my fill. After the tree is decorated, we drive home listening to Christmas carols on the radio station. The snow has stopped but the roads are icy and halfway down the mountain we are flagged to a stop by a state trooper. His blue lights intermittently light the crumpled side of a pick-up truck that has just been hauled over the steep edge of the mountain. There is a big hole in the windshield and for just a moment before I can see it clearly, I panic at the thought that it might be Justin’s truck. I have been to the site of accidents that both of my boys have been involved in and the dread lurch and pound of my heart will never quite go away. And, although it’s not Justin’s truck, I know some mother’s child has just been pulled from the brink.
When we get home, Justin calls his dad to tell him about his day. When they hang up, I call Scott, who is on a college road trip with friends. I remind him to buckle up and tell him I love him. Then I step out onto the porch into the frosty night and look up. Above my house, Orion still sails across the winter sky. The Christmas stars remind me. God sent His son, so I am not afraid. Love has no end.