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Christmas letter


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I just finished writing my Christmas letter. It took a couple of weeks and a box of tissues, more or less. The last nine months have been hard, but not near as hard as they could have been, thanks to y'all. I am truly blessed to have your support and friendship.


December 11, 2004

I hadn’t planned on doing a Christmas letter or cards this year. I think I can be forgiven for not wanting to this year of all years. And then a funny thing happened: the Saturday before Thanksgiving, my mom and Katie came home with Christmas cards, and Katie opened her box and started writing her name in all of them. The letters were written in order, sometimes left to right, sometimes top to bottom, and sometimes she couldn’t fit all five letters on one line and had to wrap it into a second. And in making an E, she just puts a vertical line and then as many horizontal ones as will fit, so sometimes it looks like a treble clef rather than an E. She spent an hour that afternoon writing her names on cards, determined once she knew they were going to family and friends to make sure y’all were included. For those of you getting the e-mailed or posted version, I am sorry that a description is all you get.

And for neither the first nor the last time, Katie taught me that afternoon. Even if I would just as soon cancel it, Christmas is coming. Just as it came last year, only a few days after finding out the cancer had spread to Becky’s left lung, and her chances of defeating that beast dropped precipitously. Christmas will not be denied, not for a little girl who will be four and a half already on its eve. I can’t tell you why it is me here writing and not Becky; Lord knows I would rather it be the other way around. I cannot tell you why cancer found her and why the doctors had no answers for it. Those answers, ultimately, are not for this life.

So yes, this has been a year of tragedy, but it has been a year of blessing. I am asked often how I do this. And the answer is easy and obvious – I don’t have any choice, and I have a lot of help. The needs of a four year old won’t wait for me to finish pouting. She is hungry now, and she needs to go potty now, and she is cutting electrical cords with scissors now. Okay, so I made the last one up. And the help I have received has been enormous, especially from my parents, who keep Katie every Monday night so I can study and have some time to regain some sanity. My mom has become the official bather of Katie, who doesn’t like the bathtub in our house because it fills from the shower head rather than a faucet. So most nights, we tromp over to my parents’ house and my mom gets yelled at because combing hair is no fun. And my dad has created the funniest personalities for Katie’s stuffed animals, especially that ornery penguin Peppy. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

I want to tell you of our housekeeper in Nacogdoches, who has been abandoned by her husband with three children, who has just a high school education, and whose son has a disease that sometimes has him having 250 seizures per day. But she came faithfully and happily every Wednesday and is not only scraping by on the houses she can clean and the paltry sum Social Security sends her each month, but has found a calling in nursing her son and is getting a degree in nursing in what passes for her as spare time. Thank you, Julie.

I want to tell you of Katie’s Sunday school teacher, raising two children with Fragile X syndrome, one of the genetic causes of autism. She cannot teach anymore, but instead manages the craziest household you can imagine. Who uses many of the few free hours she has to teach Sunday school to preschool children and volunteer at the church nursery. Who proved to me that my heart still does beat and that love still is possible in this crazy world that has so much hurt. Who exemplifies the lesson cancer taught us and the most important lesson any of us can learn: a good day is enough to be happy. Worrying about more than that is simply greedy. Thank you, Alisa.

I want to tell you about a little girl never embarrassed by oxygen machines or driving carts through grocery stores. Who talks of and to her angel every day, and who reminded me who a few days after her mommy died asked me who would teach her students. She then made the simplest, wisest statement anyone has made in these difficult months. “I guess they are smart enough now.” She understood that if Becky is gone, it is only because she has taught us all enough for us to get by. Not all she had to give, no, not by a country mile. But all we needed. I realized that night that I, too, was smart enough, even though I didn’t feel it then and often don’t feel it now. Thank you, Katie. All I do is for you.

But most of all, I want to tell you of the woman who taught her classes three days before she died, who missed only one class in her last semester, never for sickness but only for a doctor’s appointment. Who spent her last day planning a project for her students, never giving up hope that she would win the battle against an intractable foe. Who always thought of herself first as a mom and a wife and a teacher and only then gave thought to being a cancer patient. Who literally and figuratively made me into a man and a father. If when my time comes, I know that every breath I have drawn has been in tribute to the love we share, then I know I will have done well. Thank you above all, my love.

Christmas is coming, and it will not be a sad one here. The enthusiasm of a four year old will prevent that well enough. But it will be bittersweet, of course. Katie and I wish you all a merry Christmas and a blessed new year and for us all happy days for as many as we have. I don't want to be greedy.



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Your Christmas letter is a beautiful gift to all of us here, struggling one way or another.

Your outlook gives me strength and courage to go on - and to care - and to share, with the Julies and the Alisa's in my life but particularly with Sonia who has fought cancer for three years, but will probably be dead by the time Christmas arrives.

Thank you, Curtis and Katie.

Thank you, Becky, for your legacy of love and of wisdom.


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Thanks for sharing all your wise and heartfelt reflections of this past year. You are doing a most admirable job in giving Katie all she will need to become a beautiful young lady. Your endearing love for Becky will light Katie's path throughout her life and you will wisely choose others to share with you both. Enjoy the holidays through the special gift of children.


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Curtis - I just want to say "Thank you". You have just given me a most precious gift. I think that everyone here who has lost someone to the beast really is not into the holidays - I for one, and not looking forward to it and just wish it to be over, however you sent me a ray of light and hope, in that I need to be thankful for the blessings I do have and the things that I have learned in the past 6 months. Thank you for that, and I will be sure to hug my girls with just a little more love than usual and pray that they can distract me this year form the sadness and redirect me to the happiness. Thank you, and I hope that you and Katie have a blessed Christmas and New Year.


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Curtis, I'm a little slow here, actually, I've been SICK for the last couple of weeks, so haven't been on the board much at all, and just saw this.

I hope you don't mind, but I forwarded it to my dear Aunt Mary, who has lost two adult children in the last four years. She lost her 38 year old daughter, married and the mother of three children around your Katie's age, to breast cancer, then 18 months later her son committed suicide. For some reason I think your thoughts and words will help her. Her husband of 50 years (51 years Feb. 6) had triple bypass surgery last week, it was rather sudden and unexpected, but she is bravely keeping on.

God Bless,

Karen C.

oh,by the way, I'm really touched by your words. What a wonderful tribute to Becky. And mostly the words of your beautiful daughter.

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Merry Christmas Curtis and Katie!

Having just received one of those Christmas newsletters of the sort that everyone says is the WORST (full of boastings and braggings and superlatives and trips taken and money spent :roll: ).....to read your heartfelt missive full of love and hope and appreciation and warm memories is the perfect offset.

You write well, Curtis. And I'm glad that although you didn't much feel like doing a Christmas letter this year.....you did one anyway. That little girl of yours is a treasure...with much to teach you too, it appears. :wink:

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