“…who has friends…”

Christmas Eve 2019, approximately 10:55 PM, I lay here in bed on my right side, holding my tablet in my right hand and typing with my left…watching the last few minutes of the Yuletide favorite of millions (while a must avoid at all costs to others) IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Without fail, several tears escape and roll sideways down my cheek at the few words I actually like from a character I mostly dislike…from Harry Bailey, “to my big brother George, the richest man in town!” Then the camera pans to the Tom Sawyer book and the inscription from Clarence, “…no man is a failure who has friends…”

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Decades ago I first saw just a few minutes of the then oft seen movie because TV stations across the country could air it for free. It had not been a commercial success when released in 1946 due to its dark and desperate tones through the final hour despite the joyful ending. After Thanksgiving in 1982, I underwent my first spinal surgery. I had, a few nights prior, learned in the darkened hospital room that I would need the prayed for NO body-cast body-cast. In another room in the wee hours I was unable to sleep and held the TV remote switching channels, trying to find something to watch. Another patient was bedded nearby so I knew I couldn’t turn up the volume much. 37 some years later I still recall seeing the final 30 minutes or so when George Bailey is his most hopeless till Clarence drops in…in the water for George to save him. For the following few years, I would look for the movie…not knowing its name and usually only catching bits and pieces. I wish I could recall how long it was before I was able to see the movie from start to finish, but when I did, I knew I would always need to watch. And watch I have…innumerable times since, but less frequently each season since NBC obtained exclusive rights to air. Nevertheless, I would watch the first December airing and tape (nowadays, DVR) the Christmas Eve program as I was usually attending late Candlelight Church services. Those days, or rather nights, are long gone as several surgeries over the last 9 years have left me much more incapacitated than I ever was for the first 43 years of my life even with congenital deformities of all parts skeletal. The details do not need to be explained here. Suffice it to type that my world is much smaller…the world I can manuever in. And this 2019 year was particularly hard…as hard as 2015 was when my then world crashed around me. Then I lost both my parents, a cousin and any “smitch” of independence I had left after bad hip surgery in 2010. I felt lost all over again this year.

A never could be started surgery occurred in January…a traumatic experience that left me scared, furious and despondent. I was told the surgical team had decided to stop for fear of my coding on the OR table. Please bear with me, I wish the attempt had been made regardless of the risk…and if I had coded and died, then obviously I wouldn’t be typing this now…but I had been prepared. Another incident a couple of months later rocked me more. I felt utterly worthless. Finally in late June, the procedure was performed in a different hospital…a complicated success. Took more time to intubate me than remove the cyst that hadn’t been where it was scanned to be. At least my discomforting pain was validated as the cyst was even larger than thought. The Depression I had fallen deep into didn’t lessen after though. I let several matters go unattended which left me in even worse shape mentally and emotionally.

Watching George Bailey once again realize he wasn’t a failure (as he thought others think of the standards) filled up my well even more…the well that had run dry but that I had finally began filling again myself back in September. I had a choice one day whether to give up …for instance my presentations and much more. But even with short arms and stubby fingers, I “clawed” my way up enough so I could begin to refill my soul well and I chose to continue trying.

This Christmas …not in the song sense…had gotten away from me…decorations were missing …two stockings, too. Sitting up is more and more difficult …no window light were hung, no wreath on my front door…

And yet in the past 3 days as well as over a week ago, I received comfort by the visits of friends…Saturday, Monday and today, Christmas Eve. 3 separate visits today along and then I was able to visit other friends’ home with steps. And while very different, I attended early Candlelight service …thanks to the willingness of friends making sure I could get in despite the steps to and in the Church itself. Hmmm…3 visits in my home today…the same as we imagine certain visitors to another laying in a bed of sorts….hmmm

I may not be exactly where I long ago thought I would, much like George Bailey. He even has wife and children. No spouse or children of my own…not even a failing like the Building and Loan business. My “business” isn’t even big enough to be a failure…

Yet, I know I have friends, old and new, near and far…virtual and face to face…so for now, I’m not a failure.

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love … May all these gifts of Christmas be with you now and throughout the coming year…