His name is Jeffrey.

Oh. That’s nice. Any particular reason?

No. Just Jeffrey. It came to me.


Jeffrey is the ten inch tall Christmas gnome I purchased to add a little more cheer. He resides on the pony wall between the galley kitchen and the tiny living room. He is the Lord of the Manor. He is well loved.

Jeffrey’s bulbous red feet protrude from a barrel-like body, clad entirely in grey and red plaid. He has no shoulders but his arms (which end in bright red mittens) emerge from beneath a checkered red and white toque, replete with a brilliant grey ribbon bow. Beneath this festive headpiece is a pale pink nose, easily as big as either of his feet. Below that, there is a snow white beard almost as wide as he is, flowing to where his knees would be… if he had legs. One might assume that he has eyes but the toque leaves us guessing.

If I were asked, I would suggest that he is a somewhat temperamental thing. He simply has that air about him. Perhaps one night deep in the heart of Christmas Future, he will wobble and totter to life to set me straight about these things.

For now, I have unanswered questions about the naming of the creature but I am content to come back to it another day. Today we are looking at the Christmas tree. It is about three feet tall, adorned with clear lights, a few frosted pine cones, and many candy canes.

This is a tree loaned to us by Mom’s friend Norma. Norma has two such trees and the other is set up in her home. I was about to buy a new tree for Mom when Norma called to offer this one. This kind of sharing is typical of Mom’s good friends and she has been surrounded by such people for much of her life. She has sought them out. As often as her meagre family income allowed, she has been one of them.

Norma is a good friend, she muses.

She is.

I’m lucky to have her.

Norma is at the coast for Christmas with her own kids and grandkids. She will not be here when Mom moves to hospice. She will not be here when Mom breathes her last.

Norma was there when Mom bled into the toilet. Norma was quick to arrive when Alan died, when Mike and Launi and Chelsea passed. Norma was there for every dark moment, for every aching, wracking cry. But now the universe has decreed that she will miss this final act, this last goodbye. Instead, she will drink her grief at Mom’s passing from far away, sipping it through a gossamer straw that winds through time eternal and mountain passes cold. Perhaps it is a mercy. She is surrounded by family who will carry her through. Perhaps the universe is being kind.

Lois! You have to tell your kids!

I know…

She had not told us up to that point. Even when her bleeding was increasing, she did not. She didn’t want to worry us. She didn’t want to be a bother.

In fact, while those are true, Lois (like many of us) preferred to avoid some of the uncomfortable truths that came her way.

She would say, both famously and infamously, I’m fine! Or, I’m great!

Mom! You’re not fine. Quit lying to people. Be honest with them. You don’t have to complain. You can still be optimistic but at least be honest!

Okay, I will.

She didn’t.

Not until about two weeks before she died – an entire lifetime too late.

Rob says that I have to be honest with you.

She glares at me over the phone while talking with her brother.

Lois, that’ll be a first! You’ve always pretended to be fine. It’s no secret. We all knew… said every one of her friends, her kids and even her big brother, Uncle Rich.


You should call Norma back. Don’t lie to her.



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