She never had another one, nor did she leave the hospital again. A year later, I was a widower, and my sorrow blotted out the December sun, such as it was. As I wrote in this space on Christmas Eve:
For someone who has found boundless comfort and joy in Christmas through the years, first with my own family in Smalltown, U.S.A., and then with Hilary, this loss was grievous. “To be happy, not in memory but in the moment, is the shining star on the tree of life,” I wrote after trimming the first tree I shared with the woman who would soon become my wife.
I find myself in the same boat as pretty much everybody else, staying home, missing Hilary and my family, not seeing my friends save on a screen, and feeling…well, blue.
At my age, of course, you have no choice but to accept the increasingly obtrusive presence of death in your life. The fact that it has come so often around Christmastime, though, is a thing I find hard to tolerate. Something had to give, and what gave was my ability to celebrate Christmas. It’s not entirely gone: I still love A Christmas Carol, Meet Me in St. Louis, and all the wonderful seasonal songs. But there is no tree in my home, nor is my heart light, and both of these things were true last year as well.
I rejoice, then, to tell you that my star has risen again: I found a new partner six months ago, and today my beloved Cheril and I, as the song says, are close as pages in a book. Hilary wanted nothing more than for me to find a new love after her inevitable passing, so I am in no doubt that she would have approved.
On Thursday Cheril will pick me up in Manhattan and drive me out to Long Island, where she lives and works, to spend the long weekend celebrating a holiday that has come back to life for me. Among other things, we both love Christmas movies and plan to watch a stack of them, and she’s also promised to drive me around Long Island to look at Christmas lights, the gaudier the better. While we’ll be seeing her mother at some point in the day, we mainly plan to be together, reveling in the great good fortune that is ours. Cheril has a tree, but it is our mutual happiness that will be our shining star.
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Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas” in Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis. The song is by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and the orchestral arrangement is by Conrad Salinger:
Bing Crosby sings “Close as Pages in a Book,” by Dorothy Fields and Sigmund Romberg. This performance, arranged by John Scott Trotter, was recorded in 1945: