How can I be dismal at Christmas time? We celebrate the birth of the child of God who walked the Earth and became our savior this time of year. We sing a little louder. We hug a bit more often. We greet and leave with a “Merry Christmas” salutation, do we not?
And yet… I can’t shake being teary at this very moment.
I spent Sunday night with our long friends who lost their youngest daughter at age 6 to cancer. Mira died on Christmas Eve three years ago. Her and my daughter were best friends. So there we were smoking Christmas bacon together and everyone was there, except Mira. The comfort associated with the act of being together like that was nothing short of tremendous. I still had to hide small bouts of sadness from the others. Maybe some of them were doing that too.
My mother-in-law died right after my bride and I were married. She passed away on the 20th. It can be really hard sometimes knowing just how much she would have enjoyed her grandchildren. I know that isn’t the sole reason to be drawn into emotion, but when I’m telling stories about her to my little cherubs, I often think about how big and wide Barb’s smile always was, and since I’d never seen her much in any kind of ‘grandmother’ role due to her very young age when she died, I picture her in a plethora of ways with her grandchildren. It can be really hard not to smile, and yet there’s a tinge of sadness as well. I know it hits my wife like a ton of bricks this time of year. I see her struggle. She’s one tough cookie, but it bothers her.
And today… My pastor and his wife lost one of theirs. They’ve become very good friends to our family and we’re darned fortunate to have them in our lives. Their second oldest, Rona upn, fell asleep here and woke up on the other side very early this morning. To watch a family grapple with this is almost unbearable. They have a profound and solid faith. That isn’t a question. But, the pain I saw today… The strain was all they could carry. The sounds of children inside their home learning of their brother’s ascent as I sat outside on the front stoop, was a far cry from the music I had intended to hear today.
They’re not so different from me in that they know all too well their faith allows dying. They can handle this in a healthy fashion. They’re properly equipped. But the torture… It may as well been tattooed on their faces.
Steve and I visited about this just a touch today. It isn’t of any immediate solace of course, but in time it may help. The fact that the anguish they wrestle with is so formidable, is verification of the depth of their love and caring. I understand now why people remark how the bitter is necessary to appreciate the sweet. The inverse is true in kind. Knowing pain is the antithesis of joy, explains the seemingly gaping cavern of torment they’re experiencing. I say this not to point out what we already are supposed to know, but to verify for you all that which is true. You cannot experience agony to this level if you were void of the polar opposite. What does that mean?
That means they have loved as passionately and intensely as the limits of human expression and perception allow. There are too few in life who do. There are men and women right now, that you know and know well, that avoid the extremes of any emotion. I say to you all that silly denial robs you of the intensity of your soul. This family knows how to love and that virtue will help them through the abyss to the other shore.
You’ve heard “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?” That’s not a bumper sticker. Tennyson was no slouch. Am I heartbroken for my friends? Yes. Am I supremely melancholy I’ll never get a big smile and hearty handshake from my young friend? Yes. Very much. Am I also reminded to love? YES.
Love much. Love always. Don’t spare it. Don’t ration it. Don’t withhold it. Jesus commands this for good reason.