December flows in fits and starts of cold winds and cloudy dreariness. The drama of change in the deep clutches of power and might. The whistling chimneys and the rattling of the windows overcome by the inconstant powering on and off of the heating system. But there is something in this cold air that makes humans alive with spirit and happiness. The last month of the year is also the month of Christmas. It is the joy of giving that supplants all other feelings.
Precisely in the herald of this month a cold and distant echo of misfortune was to strike claiming all virtues of joy and content of his spirit. He lived for this month. His “presents” for his family and friends started accumulating the day after the New Year. There were no resolutions to resolve past transgressions of life, for there were none. No bills of equanimity to pay for imbalance of ideas, or purge the colors of prejudice for he treated all the same. He lived a clean and decent life. He functioned on the beautiful hue of a mural of morality that claimed the blank fabric of his being. He was a giver of ideas and things. Nothing mattered but the joy and smiles he received in return. He was wealthy with contentment and ignorant of wants. His was a life lived in balance and selflessness. Not quite out-of-the-world-type of behavior, but in these days it seemed that way.
Sitting at his small wooden desk that barely covered the breadth of his own legs, with the conspired deliberations of thought and happiness he addressed the cards with words that would fill the hearts of all the lucky recipients, who took the time to read them. The elegance of his thought was expounded within the content of his words.
The pen had barely scratched the letter on the fortieth card when a sudden gallop of the heart and restlessness of his pulse made him pause. This was odd. He had never felt this before. He regained his composure after a moment. Poised to begin the exercise of love and comfort through the flowing ink of his pen, when a second wave of the sudden internal bodily riot made him stop. The concern was just being raised to the alarm level in his thoughts when the lights went out.
A crucial lever of continuity had become unhinged somewhere in his being. The wonderful machinery of his body of seventy-five years had through wear-and-tear lost the composure of the fluid function and form of being. Something had gone awry and there was no help around. He was alone in his modest home, a rustic ranch-style house perched near a pond of still clear water, ablaze with lights and sounds of Christmas. And now with the passage of time the critical mass of the present was slowly dissolving the potential future. Life was oozing through the pores of his being. The clock ticked and tocked its mechanical hubris to allocate the next moment, heralding the future into the present and as it did so the colorful landscape of his life seemed to falter and fade in inches off the mural.
The shrill ring of the telephone claimed power over the room. It rang for a while and then it stopped and then it rang again for a while. Time was fleeing, in the darkness outside of the evening. He lay motionless. His head that had slowly fallen to the desk surface now ashen and his mouth open with his thick shock of curly salt and pepper locks of hair falling over his face covering his half opened eyes. The red conical Santa hat with the white plume of cotton on top lay on the floor. His right leg twitched repeatedly and then all was quiet again. His facial color now drained like the parchment paper of the greeting card beneath it. The arrow of time kept its flight, the unmoving mover of events and lives, creeping in its steady pace overtaking the desires of this lonely habitant.
Ten days later the sun had just broken out after being held hostage to the dark gray clouds. The few spurts of snowflakes had come and gone. The wind was cold and shook the naked branches of the tall trees as they cowed to the whims of that force. The chimneys belched the dark sooty smoke of oil burning stoves. The homes were shuttered as fortresses to the bad weather, with curtains drawn and nary a pedestrian walked the icy sidewalks. Motion, was only exhibited by cars as they were driven to and fro to businesses.
He lay in the hospital bed with tubes exiting from all parts of his body. He was still distant to the present stuck somewhere in time where communication was measurable in being only. His eyes were partially opened, swollen and without recognition.
“So what do you think?’ The resident asked in his mild mannered baby-faced thirty-year-old questioning wisdom. He was sharp in critical thinking and had decided neurosurgical residency would help him decide his future.
“I haven’t the faintest idea.”
“We thought it was a tumor in the brain, but all the CT scans and the MRIs have been negative.”
“Well it has to be the critical cortical brain. I mean given that he has a good primitive brain activity but no cerebral functionality. His heart is ticking and he is breathing on his own but no perception, words or actions.”
“You see,” he bellowed, “any assumptions we have been wrong.”
“Waiting long enough something will show up.”
“Time is a delicate coefficient. Too little and wrong assumptions can mislead while too much and the wear and tear on his body will destroy his chances for recovery. What we need is a Christmas Miracle.”
“That’s a new one, coming from a neurosurgeon to be.”
“All tests have been negative and yet we have this impasse. I checked the books, journals and of course Google. All answers are fairly pat. There is no “House” moment. We cannot go and biopsy the brain and five minutes later have a diagnosis or for that matter do a craniotomy because a hunch has arrived and must be resolved quickly. I found out reality is a whole lot slower and more challenging,”
“Welcome to the real world.”
“That sounds eerily damning.”
“It is, because that is what real life is. It isn’t a TV show. It is life.”
“Okay enough of philosophy. What do we do next?”
“Done!” He slapped his fist into his hands.
“A small focus, the Neurologist feels it is some scar tissue from yester years.”
“Did you consider a SPECT scan?”
“What would that show?”
“Maybe able to isolate that area further. And while at it how about a Chest XRay?”
“The Chest was clear except for a small nodule in the left upper lobe. It is too small and deep for a biopsy. I’ll order the SPECT. This sounds like “House” now. Doesn’t it?”
“Lets get a PET scan while we are at it, since a malignancy has to be ruled out and it is the strongest of all arguments yet.”
“This could be the next House episode now.” He laughed as he walked away. Youth has a certain measure of flippancy that arguably is charming some of the times, and the TV is their measure for all things real and fictional.
It is in the subtle axioms of wayward thoughts that a germ of truth is beheld, waiting for the implied assumptions to reach the desired conclusions. So it is with small miracles that are born in the fragment of a sentence within the emptiness of ideas. Yet that emptiness beholds the richest of all experiences and knowledge. Sometimes in the sanctuary of a quiet reflection the expressed thought can weigh in and proclaim Eureka. It is like the discordant string tuning of the violin, the obo, the isolated bleat from the Saxophone or the semi-fluid tone of the flute, with an occasional echoed cough from the audience, that, suddenly with the raised arms of the conductor, in a flash of genius, all converge into a pure tone of rhythm and beauty to surround you with a symphony. Perfect harmony! Order from chaos! Convergence!
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Song of the Angels (1881
And so it was that December 14th evening when two minds wrestled with the airy substance of exhaustive communication, an idea was hatched that would grow to lead to a miraculous recovery.
He, our gifted and talented lover of Christmas, the man with the wit and wisdom of contentment and balance, the writer of a hundred Christmas cards with a cast of thousand words, had visited upon him the Angels of Truth and Grace that evening via the ramblings of two men of science.
MRI result of a solitary metastasis (spread)
He was diagnosed with a Lung Cancer with a solitary metastasis to the brain. It was the non-small cell type. Both the lesions were removed and he was considered disease-free. His stupor, it appears was from the brain overcome with the poisonous material of the wayward cancer cell. The apothecary of poisonous hormones circulated into his brain and shut it down. It was euphemistically termed “Para-neoplastic Syndrome.” Only when the tumors had been independently removed, did the threatening humors dissipate and the brain was able once again to muse in its musings.
This was the Christmas Miracle.
A year later, surrounded by his favorite colors and lights, listening to the rich sounds of Bing Crosby, he sits once again inking in blue, the pure thought of the joyous season. He is once again reunited with the love of the Season and the breadth of the human Spirit.
The doorbell rings. He opens the door.
“Package for owner of 30th Christmas Street.” It is the mailman.
“Thank you. And I have something for you.” He returns with a gift package, “Merry Christmas!” He exclaims with the lyrics, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” playing in the background.
Life has begun again to forge new acquaintances. It is all in the giving that true happiness resides. The rest is the mist of ignorance that clouds our reason.