It's not that I don't like Christmas. I do. The candle light, the cookies, the carols, the gifts with my name on them; it's all very appealing. The love and the warmth and the gathering. Makes for a wonderful life. But the monetary stress, because I never start shopping in June, and the pressure to express how much people mean to me in a condensed time frame, has left me cranky about Christmas. The pressure to perform and provide every December drains me. I'd much rather spread the love and the presents out over the whole year. I'd rather gather with people I care for when the mood strikes and schedules allow, than the frenzied, blustery, obligatory last 2 weeks of the year. I've kept up the yearly rigor and angst because there never seemed to be a way out. Everybody blindly agrees to the frenzy and so I have gone along on the wild ride. But 6 years ago, when Jean came into my life, the frenzy began to fade. 6 years ago, I was hospitalized for drastic unpleasantness in my intestinal tract. The hope was to be home in time for the annual Christmas Eve uber-extravaganza. On the 23rd, however, all hopes were dashed. I wouldn't make it home for Christmas. How could I miss the frenzy, the food, the love, the warm-fuzzy family gathering? How could I miss Christmas? It was unthinkable. After a slew of women came and went in the hospital bed next to mine, Jean arrived on the evening of December 24th. She was 72. Four foot eleven. She wore brown shoes. She had trouble breathing. I introduced myself and told her she was not alone. She mumbled thank you and smiled at me. Jean was only in my life for 3 hours. She choked and stopped breathing when a young nurse came to check on her. A frenzy of activity erupted in our room, with doctors and nurses trying to revive her and 2 lawyers watching the process. I was sitting in the opposite corner, invisible in the mayhem. A do-not-resuscitate order was revealed, and she died. At 9:52pm on Christmas Eve. While my family ate German confections around a sumptuously decorated table and sang carols in the glow of a candle-lit tree, I sat until midnight in the company of Jean. She, shrouded in the hospital-regulation wrapper for the deceased, still causing the air-compression bed to rise and fall under her weight, and me, shrouded in a new found peace. Jean helped me realise how ridiculous is the notion of saving up my expressions of love for one season out of the year. That if I miss the season or the day, if I am not present for presents, I miss the opportunity to love. Jean helped me realise the season of Christmas is precious, but really not more precious than any other season. Because in every season and every day lies an opportunity to express how I feel about my friends and family. To celebrate the birth of goodness. To give comfort. To share joy. To offer peace. To invoke the Christ-spirit in my life, if I choose. So yes, I like Christmas. 365 days of the year.