From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truths, from the arrogance which thinks it knows all truth, O God of Truth, deliver us! ~ an African Prayer

Every year my parents compose and create a Christmas greetings post-card that now is mostly transmitted by email, although they will still send over a hundred of them through the mail. My dad said he would hand-deliver sixty of them to their neighbors at The Forum, the elder housing development in Tucson, Arizona where they spend the winter. That is, he will walk his walker down the long hall and place them in people’s mailboxes. This Christmas postcard has become one of the major ways they stay connected to their extensive but gradually dwindling list of family and friends. 

The choice to send a post-card originated many years ago because postcard postage was cheaper and my dad, a child of the Great Depression, was thrifty to a fault. But the limits of space also required an economy of language and image. The post-card always includes a small picture of the two of them taken in the last year – this year’s is a bit grainy -  a brief summary of their health and major family events - we celebrated their 65th anniversary at our summer home in Vermont on September 1 -  and always one or two quotes they find feisty and resonant. They labor over the composition the postcard each November, although, this year my dad did most of it.

This year’s post-card puts a slightly rosier tint on the physical reality of their lives. At 87, my mother is caught in the labyrinth of short-term memory loss even as she deals with low energy and atrial fibrillation. At 92, my dad has mobility issues and is facing the permanent loss of control over his bladder. It’s hard to watch these two intrepid, vital, and occasionally fierce forces of nature fade and become frail. But you can still sense a bit of the old feistiness in their choice of the African prayer above and this year’s personal postcard statement: “We are facing the election results knowing we are called to be hope and light in the world – through simple and courageous acts of love and compassion for those near and far. Grant us the grace to be witnesses of respect and agents for reconciliation.”

My parents have had their share of sadness and tragedy; the suicide of my brother six years ago nearly undid them. As a retired Episcopal priest, my dad has been cruelly mistreated several times at the hands of the institutional church. Yet they never seem to lose hope. Or they always seem to find it again in the power of the Gospels and in being connected to strong communities of faith. Their resilience astonishes me. This Advent they serve as a powerful example of the light and hope that cannot be overcome by the darkness. I just hope the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.