A "friend" ornament shared with my friend Dale.This last month of the year, many of us are getting ready for family gatherings. Some have lost or are estranged from loved ones. Some just don’t have the heart after the past few years. Maybe it all reminds you, as it does me, that life is short.

That reminder hits me every year about this time, because in another era, I would be on the opposite side of the country right now. It would be a carefully timed Thursday-to-Sunday trip close but not too close to Christmas to visit my best friend.

That Christmas tradition lasted a dozen years, and I’m so grateful for it.

As you’re in the midst of your own holiday preparations, are you finding joy in traditions? Or are you tempted to give up because things have changed so much over the past few years? The bottom line of my Christmas tale is “Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart.”

Come on back to the blog vault with me for the full story of those Christmas visits.