Last Letter Standing by
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Prompted By Holiday Letters

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Used to be that I received many holiday letters, often in lieu of Christmas cards. They have dwindled to next to none over the years, and I am relieved to see most of them go. Many were of the boasting kind, reminiscent of satirical letters (“Joe received his MD, PhD, and JD, Linda won Miss USA and is valedictorian,” etc).

The one letter I get every year, without fail, is from my longtime friend Jan.

One letter, from Dick’s middle daughter, I could take or leave, only because I was already up to speed on all the events of the year. This year, however, there has been no letter. Within the last two months, Dick’s sister died, along with several family friends, and more are in hospice. Although COVID wasn’t involved, most losses were unexpected, and this holiday doesn’t seem made for cheery greetings from Dick’s family.

This leaves the one letter I get every year, without fail, from my longtime friend Jan, and her girlfriend (now fiancee) Sharyn. Jan is a natural connector of people (she knows hundreds), and has her hand in many activities. We originally became acquainted 40 years ago in a Jewish singles group (well before Jan came out), and then ran a French-speaking club together for 25 years. Before COVID, we would meet periodically for brunch and catch up. These last two years, I am grateful to have her letter, filled with photos and updates.

I smiled when I read this year’s “Christmas” letter, because it was overwhelmingly Jewish, recounting Zoom Sabbath services, Passover Seders, and Bat Mitzvahs. When Sharyn moved into Jan’s house, her synagogue cantor blessed the new mezuzah. No doubt there will be Jewish elements to their upcoming wedding in July. Jan’s letter was a bright note in a very solemn couple of months and a reminder that, because the winter solstice has passed, each day will bring more light.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Sorry that you have had so many losses this year, Marian. It does not make for for a cheerful season. But Jan sounds wonderful and her letter is filled with hope, joy, Jewish festivals and meaning. And as you say, now that are past the solstice, each day brings a little more daylight.

    Wishing you happy days ahead.

  2. Sorry for your losses this past year Marian, we’ve had them too – also not Covid-related but rather all that comes with the territory when one’s cohort is pushing 80!

    And glad you got at least one letter from a friend with good news!

    May you and yours stay well, happy holidays Marian!

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    May I add my sympathies on the loss of friends and family. It is the absence of their presence that is noticed at holiday times. So glad you have stayed connected to Jan, and have had such good memories together (didn’t know you were in a French-speaking club–sounds great). There is someone I have been in touch with since we were in grade school, and am happy to still have that through thick and thin.

    • Marian says:

      Thank you, Khati. While loss at this time of life is expected, this was such a large cluster in a short amount of time. The French club was great–about half native speakers and then the rest of us. I credit it with keeping my French usable!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    What a tough year, Marian, and so sorry for your losses. But so glad about Jan among all the others. We should all have such true friendships. I am very glad you do and glad that it can lift you at this time.

  5. Suzy says:

    I echo the others in sympathy for all of your losses this year. But great to learn about Jan, and the many experiences you shared over the years, and her holiday letter showing that she is still going strong. Nice to have her wedding as a bright spot in the year ahead! Glad this year is coming to an end, and may 2022 be a better one for all of us!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m so sorry for all of the losses you have endured recently, Marian. Hoping 2022 brings more happiness and so glad you have been able to maintain your friendship with Jan and receive a letter filled with cheer.

  7. I enjoyed the twist of a heavily Jewish-themed “Christmas letter.” Moreso I appreciated how one good friendship can help sustain a person through difficult losses. Let this be season not of false cheer but of honest reflection. And all the best to Jan and Sharyn.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    I hope the wave of losses is receding for you! We suffered two big ones in 2020 and another this year. Two were elderly, one only fifty. And none COVID so far.

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