SANDERS: Focusing on the joys of the season

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The holiday season was upon us: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. Each holiday is a time of celebration. Each is unique.  I was trying to be in the holiday spirit, but it was so difficult.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday lasting eight nights and days. The time that Hanukkah is held each year varies. This year it was Dec. 12-20, 2017. I became sick the day before Hanukkah ended. I still had so much to do.

Hanukkah is a celebration commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. Jewish people the world over commemorate it. It was just the beginning of the holiday season, and I was struggling with illness.

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Christmas came. I was still struggling with illness. I was so sick that I had not even commenced writing Sketches. I usually start writing Sketches on a Thursday or Friday. I was already sick on Thursday. I was in the hospital on Friday and Saturday. I was doing my best to be in the holiday spirit and to count my blessings.

Christmas comes on Dec. 25 each year. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated wherever Christians live. Nowhere else is it more celebrated than the United States of America.

My family doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah. It is not within our culture. We do celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. Some Christians mistakenly think that Kwanzaa is an attempted substitute for Christmas. It is not. Kwanzaa is a seven-day cultural celebration to lift and strengthen family and community values. It runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. I will not be able to really celebrate Kwanzaa this year even though we hold a Kwanzaa celebration in our home on Dec. 30 of each year, and I facilitate the ceremony.

I recognized that I was sick on Dec. 19. I put off going to the doctor for a couple of days. When I finally did go, I was shocked at the doctor’s reaction. He wanted to put me in the hospital immediately. I refused. I finally agreed to go to a heart specialist the next day. I did not want to be in a hospital at any time and especially not during the holiday season.

Holidays in December are uniquely family times. Families gather. Families share. Families lift. Families love. Families give one to another. It’s just a special time of the year for family. If I were in the hospital, I would not just infringe on my holiday season but that of my family’s. I did not want to do that.

Let me tell you why my Selma doctor was so concerned. I had great shortness of breath. I could not walk from one room to another without being short of breath. My feet, ankles and lower legs were swollen. I was weak and trembling. The doctor thought I was having heart trouble, in particular because of the swollen lower limbs. He sent me to the Selma hospital for a series of tests. The tests were negative, but he insisted that I still go to the heart specialist. I thought I would go to Montgomery the next day and be back home in several hours. I was wrong. I was busting the holiday season for my family.

The Montgomery heart specialist insisted that I go to the hospital to take some more tests. I was disappointed, but I still expected to go to the hospital, take tests and go home that same day. My secretary’s son was getting married the next day. The wedding was part of the season’s gathering. However, I was kept in the hospital overnight. A good friend helped care for me. My wife and two daughters by birth came. My wife stayed the night with me in the hospital. Some good friends visited me. Others called. I was not just impinging on the holiday season; I was busting the season.

After all these tests, the tests showed nothing wrong with my heart, kidneys, lungs, liver or anything else. I appreciated the thoroughness of their care. They just did not know what was wrong. After all the tests, the cardiologist told me: “I’m a heart doctor; I’ve done all I know how to do.” I went home the evening before Christmas Eve.

I was still weak, still swollen, still out of breath, still trembling and still out of commission, but I am thankful that all of my basic systems are still good at 75. I was worried that even with all of the technology, they did not know what was wrong with me. I had the flu earlier this month, and everyone tells me this flu lasts particularly long so several of my symptoms could be because of the flu. However, the flu does not cause swelling of your limbs.

As I forced myself to write this Sketches on Christmas Day, I am still sick. I have gone 1594 consecutive weeks (30 and ½ years) without missing a week writing and publishing Sketches. I was not going to miss this week.

I still have Kwanzaa and New Years ahead of me as I write this Sketches. New Year’s is the most widely celebrated holiday in the world. However, New Year’s’ celebrations come at different times of the year in different parts of the world. I want so much for my family to focus on the joys of the season rather than on me.  However, we have to take things as they come and recognize our blessings even as we struggle.