Jim and I had to leave a Dickens of a fun, festive weekend in Chestertown last Saturday for two important commitments in Baltimore. Before we left we voted for the Kent School tree – Past, Present, and Future – at the Festival of Trees and stopped at KidSpot to see our students’ artwork being exhibited on First Friday. On Saturday, I accompanied the Kent School Chorus as they caroled merrily through town. What a fantastic holiday event!
A quote from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol hung on the Kent School tree resonated with me all weekend. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”
In less than 24 hours, we witnessed the beautiful beginnings of a new life together and celebrated the loss of a beautiful life well lived. Although this might sound a bit odd, both were joyful. Persian poet Rumi wrote: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Yes, that is what I felt at a wedding reception and a memorial service.
Young love is inspiring and moves my soul. It is hopeful and happy and lives in the Present and the Future. Kelsy’s long-time friend Kasey, the daughter of one of my oldest friends in Maryland, was married in October in England. The Baltimore reception was on Saturday evening. The party was elegant and the home where we gathered was filled with light and love. I connected with some friends I had not seen since moving to Chestertown, and it was a wonderful addition to my holiday season. Guests were invited to decorate a Christmas ornament for the newly married couple as a treasured keepsake of their first holiday as husband and wife. We were asked to inscribe a wish for the couple on the ball and hang it on a tree. Imagine a tree with a hundred white balls all adorned with a heartfelt, personal wish. It was beautiful. I wished for them a lifetime of love.
Sunday, we returned to the campus of our children’s school to attend a service in the St. Paul’s School Chapel. A dear friend of ours lost his courageous battle with esophageal cancer right before Thanksgiving. He was only 55. In the year since his diagnosis, he remained hopeful as he searched for treatments, far and near, with his wife as his indomitable partner. Together, they were an inspiration, and their loving bond moved my soul. As his family and friends shared fond memories from the Past with poignant, and humorous, tributes, I found great strength in the following reading, delivered by his sister.
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and sun shines brightly. We’ll see it all then, see it all clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us. But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
Corinthians Message 13:12-13
The best of the three is, most assuredly, love. From the Christmas ornament I had personalized the night before, to the outpouring of love from the many facets of a life lived to the fullest and without apology, to the love of friends we reconnected with over the weekend, to the love of my life holding my hand beside me, I felt a peaceful sense of joy. Our friend Brian was a generous, kind and fun-loving prankster whose grandfather told him “this life is meant for the living.” True, but I think this life is meant for the loving.
As we headed downtown to have dinner with Jenna in Baltimore before returning home Sunday night, we laughed about the things we remembered about Kasey as a young girl and Brian as a fierce competitor on the basketball court (that is another story). Life moves ever onward, and there are trials along the way, but if we keep love at the forefront, we can live our days on this earth with joy. We brought Jenna a small “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, a strand of lights, and a few ornaments. When her slightly lopsided tree was decorated and lit, we honored Christmas in our hearts.
Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season filled with love.
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.