Without Advent and Christmas, December would still be a month of celebration and remembrance for me and my family. Both of my grandfathers died in December: Edward, my father's father, on Dec. 14, 1994, and John, my mother's father, on this day in 1991. Yesterday was my sister's birthday. And two weeks ago, Nicholas, my brother, had his birthday.
My family feels close to me today, and I pray that my grandparents and ancestors, still on the way to heaven or there already, are relaying God's graces from beyond the horizon to their children and grandchildren now.
Here is part of my birthday greeting to Nicholas. You will have to imagine the watercolor landscape on the cover of the greeting card.
I do not know why this watercolor of a beach speaks to me of your birthday or your life. Maybe it reminds me of Long Island; it could be Babylon or Montauk I'm seeing in the sun-splashed sand. I could see the two of us walking this way, our shadows close to our feet, advancing to the ocean and the horizon beyond its restless grasp. The horizon, so straight and thin, seemingly fixed by the sky and sea, belongs neither to sky nor sea. It belongs to the birds balleting over the shore. They are the keepers of the pilgrimage, and wherever they go, they take the frontier with them.
Can you see yourself coming into the picture, striding lightly but firmly on the bright sands, forward to the water?
Brother, I show you a picture that looks like the end of Long Island. Now you show me a picture that looks like Ithaca, Washington, or somewhere I have yet to see even in dreams. Wherever it is, let it be a place beyond the horizon. Show me a place on the way, your way, to heaven.
I wish you a good birthday and a great year to come.