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The Year of No Christmas Cards



It was a year like no other in my eight decades. We were, well, we still are house bound some ten-months since the COVID-19 virus was acknowledged in March 2020. Its effects are numerous, including the souring of our outlooks on life in general. We are captives in isolation, our mobility limited -- it's a world-wide phenomenon. One of the effects is that the Christmas or Holiday cards stopped coming, including ours. Our deliveries this year are testimony to that – the number of cards we have received were about one-third of what we usually receive, including the one that arrived today, postmarked December 21st, that was mailed from Northern Virginia and postmarked Memphis, Tennessee  -- I won't get into the recent post office reforms. In lieu of cards, we sent a thank you note to those who sent us a card.


     Traditionalist, we had sent cards in each of the 56-years of our marriage. In a better year, hopefully this year, when we can travel again, we will send a photo card depicting our visit to an interesting spot somewhere in the world.


     I share with you a story, The Christmas Card, that I wrote early last year. Enjoy.



                                              The Christmas Card



My wife and I are among the few people who still send Christmas cards. In recent years, the number of cards that we have received is about half the number that we send. Most people have abandoned the age-old tradition of Christmas or holiday cards. Instead, they post a greeting on Facebook or Instagram and some send a greeting to everyone on their email list, many animated and complete with music, deer and other forest animals prancing in the snowfall, people caroling, and children opening their gifts on Christmas morning. And, many people have ceased sending holiday greetings.


     I guess we're sentimentalists and, yes, bound by tradition. We anxiously anticipate seeing the photos of growing families and how children and their parents have aged with the years. Some include long narratives about their family activities and meaningful events, something that I decline to do. When we were first married 56-years ago, Mary-Margaret and I would send holiday cards with imprints of Picasso paintings and prints. They were quite popular. We received many compliments from the recipients, including questions inquiring about where they could be purchased.


     Once we had our first child, Lauren, the cards featured her growth from year-to-year until seven years later when her sister, Donnelly, was born. From then on, it was the two of them together with their ponies, dogs, and horses. One year, it was the Grand Canyon as a background for the two of them. Then came their marriages and a new male appeared. In time, the males disappeared along with their marriages.


     I look at the old cards from time-to-time. It's a wonderful way to travel back through life's happy times, each photo representing a golden moment that you shared with relatives and friends.   


     Over the years, cards have been returned accompanied by letters from a spouse or child of the recipient informing us that he or she has died. I always follow up that sad news with a personal note relating how much that person's friendship had meant to me. About 20-years ago, a  Queens County Probate Court clerk attached a memorable note with our returned card that I had sent to my mother's cousin, Eddie Trepain. The note read, "If you know this guy call me." I called the probate clerk and learned that Eddie had died intestate leaving over $350,000. It's a long story, but in the end, my mother's estate shared Eddie's thrift with some 15 cousins.


     On another notable occasion, we received a letter from a couple in Massachusetts informing us that the addressee of our card, a former Navy buddy, had moved 12-years ago and left no forwarding address. The couple apologized for not informing us sooner, explaining that they had neglected to do so because they enjoyed our cards so much, noting that they especially enjoyed seeing our daughters grow up to be "such beautiful young women." The letter went on to say that since they were moving, it was only fitting that they let us know. Since they appeared to be a nice couple, I would have continued to send them a card, but they failed to provide their new address.




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Marketing the Inevitable -- Death

The late Carl Reiner, who died recently at 95, opined in his later years that the first thing he did when he woke up each morning was to read the obituary column. "If I don't see my name there," he said, "I'll have breakfast."


     It was at breakfast the other morning while perusing the obituary pages that I said to my wife, "Thank God, I didn't see the name of anyone I knew." She replied with a wry smile, "That's because all of your friends are dead."


     Her remark hit home. Too many people I knew, loved, admired or cherished are gone. I was reflecting on that when the mail arrived. Most of it junk mail and catalogs. One of the junk mail envelopes caught my attention. The return address was marked "Dignity."


     What can this be, I wondered as I opened the envelope. I will not repeat the epitaphs that flowed as I read the message about the services rendered. The funeral services rendered. There was a survey to complete, and should I do so, a "FREE Personal Planning Guide" would be provided complete with "insightful information for planning ahead."


     The survey inquired as to whether I had made such arrangements for anyone in the last 12 months and was I aware that I could "lock in costs … no matter how many years it is between commitment and use." It also wanted to know who would be responsible for my disposal, were they aware of my preference, and did I have a plot. In addition, there were other options including cremation, and as an added bonus, an offer of "friends and family discount travel plans." What next? Maybe in person at home consultations. I used to think that the hearing aid and supplemental health insurance brochures were bothersome.


     I got to thinking. Do these Dignity people know something I don't know?


     The conclusion -- death is a business – a big business, and now you can say, "a bold business." Yes, life is full of choices, including end-of-life choices. The latter choice I'll pass on for a while, since I'm staying put for the time being.


     But hold on a second. In today's mail there was a new one in the mail euphemistically termed "Celebration of Life." What? Celebrate death? No! Yes! I trashed it.


     Whenever the end comes, that will be someone else's choice.      

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