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Today, I will take very good care of myself. I have carefully planned my day. I have six years experience commemorating my wedding anniversary by myself. Anniversaries and birthdays, like holidays, are sinkholes for widows; so I am not leaving anything to chance.

After an early morning routine doctor’s appointment (scheduled by the doctor’s office, not by me), I will take a bouquet of Christmas greenery to the cemetery. I’ve scheduled some pampering after lunch, and then I’ll come home, put Handel’s Messiahall 2:13 hours—on the CD player, make a pot of tea and settle in my favorite chair for the rest of the afternoon to read the Christmas story as I listen to Handel’s glorious music. I will read from A Medieval Christmas, a gorgeous little book containing the Tyndale translation of the Gospel story and illustrated with miniatures from the Books of Hours at The British Library. A friend, another widow who understands, will go out to dinner with me afterwards. It will be a good day, a day of remembrance on many levels.

Notes: About 15 years ago, our interim minister, Dr. Dick Maples, described his private Christmas tradition of taking a day off in the midst of his hectic December schedule to light a fire, make a pot of tea, play the Messiah and read the Christmas story. I embraced his tradition and made it mine, and I have never missed this private time of meditation since. Twice I invited friends to join me, but the solitude was broken. The experience was not the same.

For years I played the one-hour version of the Messiah that ended in the Hallelujah Chorus, the version performed so often by church choirs at Christmastime. But on Palm Sunday 2011, I heard the full Messiah performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and I was overwhelmed by the Easter story, the story of resurrection and eternal life. It was the most moving musical experience of my life. I tracked down a two-disk CD of the complete oratorio, including a booklet with the lyrics of all the songs: conducted by Helmuth Rilling, performed by the Oregan Bach Festival Orchestra and Choir in 1997, produced by Hassler-Verdag.

The 1996 edition of A Medieval Christmas, which was published in Great Britain in association with The British Library, is no longer available; but a more recent edition, using the Revised Standard Version and published by Ignatius Press, is still in print.