Death Doesn’t Stop for Christmas

blue-christmas-tree_wallpapers_1526_102421A friend of mine lost his mom suddenly; another friend lost her father-in-law; the body of another Syrian child has washed up on another rocky coast; many have suddenly found themselves without work in our unstable economy; and yet the western world rolls on.

What’s this face we’re putting on?

What are these lights? These decorations? These parties?

What is this evil called celebration?

Why has the world not STOPPED?!

We put up our trees, we plug in our lights, we wrap our gifts, and… the holidays become a dark weight around our necks. Feeling like we need to present and be present at the same time, to put on a show on yuletide enjoyment, we begin to hate Christmas. We begin to dread it.

People tell us “it happened for a reason” or “this was meant to be” or “God needed another angel in heaven” or “be strong”. We grit our teeth against such idiocies, feeling their stings whip our wounds, but smile gratefully at our ignorant givers. Somewhere under our grief we believe they truly mean well; but our grief itself demands only a curt response. Anything deeper will release a torrent of rage, despair, and hopelessness.

So tonight I offer all of us a blessing of mercy. Knowing the darkness Advent is, but knowing better the darkness many of us are suddenly thrown into, may we be sensitive to the reality that Death does not stop for Christmas. Too many of us can’t face what Christmas demands of us, because Death has taken too much. Indeed Death was one of the most profound reasons for Christmas in the beginning. Yet even that reality offers only hollow hope for those in the middle of the storm.

Peace to you, tonight. Peace, peace, peace… & gentle, long rest.

Once again, John O’Donohue says it well:

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And it will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

2 comments

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  1. Gentle Breeze

    Thank you for writing this. A year ago my Dad died on 26 November. It was a peaceful death, he died at home, in the arms of my Mum and my husband who were trying to turn him in bed to make him comfortable. I walked into the room to witness his last breath. And so this year is the first anniversary. A poignant time; a time of remembering; a time to feel him nearby. Last year I was too busy arranging a funeral to participate in Advent.
    This year I am facing another death, this time my Mum-in-law. She is in her 90s, she lives in a Nursing Home, perhaps its her time. The difficulty is she lives in Birmingham (she chose to remain down there); we live in West Yorkshire; we can only see her at the week-end so we will travel down tomorrow to spend a few hours with her to show her we care. We are her only visitors.She likes her carers and they are kind to her and able to manage her sometimes challenging behaviour. We want her to die in the Nursing Home where she is known and where she has made the carers her friends.It is a time of waiting and being there for her as much as we can. As Christmas approaches the roads will get ever busier.And once again I am not in a position to participate in Advent and the festivites leading up to Christmas.In some ways I don’t mind. Life and death is more important. I like to write to friends and one by one I am writing a few letters. I have resigned myself to doing what I can and not stressing too much about the rest. If i can’t send Christmas cards, I won’t send them. Parties i am not too bothered about. Presents, I hope to buy a few, but again won’t worry if i can’t. Space with God is what I hope for; time to say Goodbye and God bless to Mary, my Mum-in-law; and time too for my own bereaved Mum who now is facing the courageous decision to downsize and leave our family home and move into a retirement flat at the end of January.We want one last Christmas in our family home before we say Goodbye. Please think of us. Julia

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