Still, there are times when it seems more of a thief, arriving well ahead of schedule with what appears to be random cruelty.
At this time of year, while the toughest thing for millions of us is figuring out what gift to get for friends or family members who already have everything they need, a close friend for decades is watching the gift of her own life fade while she struggles with cancer.
She has beaten the odds in one way – outlasting the prognosis for nearly an extra year – and while hope remains, another miracle looks unlikely. As Bob Dylan wrote about himself not long ago, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”
Perhaps in one way. But in another, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, who reportedly said the prospect of death “wonderfully concentrates the mind,” the dark often prompts us to generate light from sources we might never have thought were within us.
With darkness looming and grief a constant presence, the light of love from her husband, my good friend since childhood, is brighter than ever. He is her companion, caretaker and lover in a way that most of us never contemplate when we make the vows and the future seems limitless and bright. It is a light that will never banish death but will last much longer than both of their lives, passed along to their children, grandchildren and generations yet to be born – how to love in sickness as well as health.
They struggled at times over the years, like most of us do. But when he was sick some years ago, she was there with that same light, and all that other stuff became as trivial as it ought to be all of the time.
So, no matter how it ends – and it will end for all of us at some point – her path is bathed in light.