Tonight I received an email from a dear elderly friend. A beautiful Jewish woman that I was fortunate to spend time with while living in the Midwest. I’ve sent her a couple emails the last few months, but hadn’t heard back from her. I know her family well, and assumed they would tell me if something had happened, so I didn’t worry too much. That is, until I got her email.

Eldercare consulting is among the most interesting professions one could ever hope to have. I spent seven years practicing Geriatric Care Management in four states and in the District. In that seemingly short time, I was given quite an education. First hand accounts of how poignant decisions play out in later life.
The holidays were often a time of loneliness and sorrow for clients who made poor choices in their relative youth. The CEO of an early Biotech company who couldn’t or wouldn’t give up alcohol or women and consequently estranged himself from a meaningful existence. Or the physically abusive husband who routinely forced barium enemas on his demented wife for sheer entertainment. What happens to these people when they are in the oldest of old years? They have no one to think of them fondly or visit during the holidays.
Then there are the successfully aged. The ones who lived well, who lived for others. I am very blessed to still be in touch with a handful of these older folks, and I tell them, "I want to be you when I grow up".
My dear Jewish friend is one who gave. She lived a life of public service. And although our politics are inherently at odds, I respect her deeply. She was a determined young woman who rose to the position of Ambassador under Jimmy Carter (whom I picked on in my novel, which she did not find amusing).
For her, this season is a painful reminder of what she no longer has. She lost her husband, her equal, earlier in the year. Shortly after, her son moved her from her downtown penthouse apartment to a suburban duplex where the only friends her age are the lush maples beyond the living room window. She mentions those tree tops to me in emails. Color in the fall, bare branches in the winter. Her outlook is bleak because her body is declining, holding her sharp mind hostage in the process.
Her email to me tonight was a solemn one. The tone was dark and her spirits were low for someone who has pressed on through the most perilous times of our last century. To hear her call our world chaotic and the hopelessness in her words was alarming to me. I know that she’s seen the worst of humanity and I wondered how present times could possibly compare.
I have an artist acquaintance that passed along a pertinent quote to me today and I shared it with my elderly friend who is so down:
"We’re coloring with all the dark crayons in the box right now. I know there are lots of beautiful colors in my box just waiting".
That clause could apply to so many things today. The state of the world and the state of our nation, senseless death and disease…But more specifically, to a person experiencing their first holiday with empty arms due to death or divorce.
As we move through the next few days, for those of you who are hurting, remember the beautiful colors in your box that are waiting. A new year will be here next week and I hope the peace of our Maker will replace your dark with light. Merry Christmas to my fellow believers and a very Happy Chanukah to my friends in the tribe.
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