Holiday 1998
                                      New Year’s 1999

I went to a play recently called “Christmas with the Crawfords.”  It is a parody the life and
experience of Joan Crawford and the movie Mommy Dearest.  Anyway, there is a scene where
the Crawford kids chide Judy Garland (who comes to visit) about her drug problem.  It is sick
and funny.  In contrast, I write this listening to Judy singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas.”  It is sweet.  Humor and sadness, sentimentality and sarcasm: the hallmarks of this
paradox and of my year.  I hope your year provided similar confetti.

Each year ‘round about early December I struggle with the decisions of the Holiday Season.  
What gifts to buy, what invitations to accept, whether or not to travel, whether or not to send
cards… it can be overwhelming.  This year I decided to cut myself some slack and enjoy those I
love.  As a result I’ve stressed a little less, slept in a little more and procrastinated enough to
make this into a New Year’s letter.  I suggest you try this next year as being late intentionally has
really released some self-inflicted pressure.  I have finally learned to make magic out of this
annoying season.

And so the going on goes on.  I am only two classes away from finishing my Masters.  Chris and I
got engaged this year (no date set yet) and we adopted two wonderful kitties, Ella and
Josephine.  In short, life is very good.  I am still at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, but now I
am supervising all the HIV contracts for the agency.  This is my fifth year and fourth position with
the Agency.  Last year I wondered, “What is next?”  Surprisingly, I found that answer by staying
“put.”  Honestly, the clients are wonderful, the agency supportive and my co-workers are some
of the most committed people I have ever met.  On top of that, I also constantly find reminders of
why life is a gift through my connection with people with HIV.  Here is but one small example.

Ted had been volunteering with me since my first days at Catholic Charities.  When I met him he
looked sick and I thought he was near death (he was).  For five years, however, he fought AIDS
and told his story to thousands of kids.  He was defying the odds. He told the kids that he was
once shy and timid, kind of a wallflower that no one noticed.  When he spoke he would often
bring his dog with him.  When Ted finished speaking he was almost glowing.  The kids would
often applaud his courage.  His dog, CoCo Puff, would always perk up and usually lick Ted’s
face.  She seemed proud of him too.  He was no wallflower.  He spoke the truth about life,
integrity, family, decisions and AIDS.

Was…  Yes, Ted died this year.  His death is sad and beautiful.  Sad because of the loss of a
great friend and of an impassioned educator.  Ted cared about saving kids from HIV more than
he often cared for his own health. He dragged himself all over for as long as he could.  We cried
like babies when I gave him a Marathon medal I got this year.  I ran it for him (April ’98) because
I could and he spoke with me at schools because he could.  It was also a sad and beautiful death
because of how surrounded by love and family he was.  His family demonstrated deep and
unconditional love.  In all my years of ministry, I never experienced a family love a dying member
so completely.

His sister-in-law, Cathy, shared this story with me.  The whole family was with Ted as he took his
last breath.  After he died, she went into the yard to get some quiet and space.  As she walked
into the back yard, a five-year old girl next door called over the fence, “Cathy, did Ted die?”  
Cathy was surprised at the question because Ted had just died, so she called back, “Well yes
honey he did, but why do you ask?”  The little girl responded simply, “I saw God come and take
him.”  Oh, out of the mouths of babes.  If you know why adults can’t see like that, please let me
know!

So this year I saw God through the eyes of a child.  It is these same “child like” eyes that I have
also come to remember why the holidays, family, charity and love are so important.  My mother
recently had some serious blood clots removed. Being 3,000 miles away during this major
surgery nearly drove me crazy and reminded me that I am still her baby.  I know death, but this is
my mother.  I prayed to all those that I’ve lost to AIDS.  I know that Mark, Gena, Mike,
Richard, Mona, Ouida, McQuade, Charles and Roy (and the many others) were there for her.
Her surgery and recovery went exceptionally well.  It was a welcomed gift and a warm blessing
to hear she had a happy and joy-filled Christmas.  In my mother’s health, I also see God watching
over us all.  Too bad I don’t get the kind of visions that the kid had!

Big plans lie ahead for 1999: the year of the millennium.  I will meet Chris’ family for the first time,
I will finish school, may run more marathons and write more letters.  I may also get ready for the
chaos of Y2K!  Somehow the dawn of a new century is less daunting as I sit hear considering the
spirit of Christmas.  But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?  Anyway, I hope these though find you
similarly smothered in love and searching for the beauty in all things.  May 1999 provide you with
the desire to chase your dreams.  Be safe and happy this and every year, and if ever in Oakland,
look me up.  I’ll be the one rolling on the floor with the kitty cats, purring, lying in the sun and
rubbing their bellies!