“Life is composed of meetings and partings…” This week Bob Cratchit, in the form of Kermit the Frog, reminded me of the powerful cycle of life and death. An easy reminder in mid-December, right? Nightfall crashes down by 4:00 p.m. and darkness like a despotic tyrant rules the whole hidden realm beyond my frosty pane until the late dawn breaks over the mountaintops beyond my fields. Luckily, we humans find recourse for this blackout. Households everywhere attack back by abandoning their sense of decorum and going bonkers, displaying blowup snow-globes and lit wire-nodding reindeer, even nativity clusters complete with plaster sheep and wise-men, all strewn across once well-manicured lawns. And not stopping there you even see rainbow lights cascading recklessly over rooftops. Undoubtedly, you can name at least one neighbor who challenges life and limb by dragging a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer up his ladder to dizzy heights. Antics aside, these holiday extravaganzas to the well-placed elegant strands of lit garlands around doorways are all a welcome relief from the cheerless black of December nights.
This week brought news from the incomprehensible side of this cyclical course, the inevitable sorrow of dying. All around us, courageous friends and family lose their battle with incurable disease, with old age, with unchecked addiction, and disappear from our lives. My dear, infallible, cousin Billy, who has spent the last year fighting every step against cancer, now lays surrounded by siblings, wife, daughter, while friends and countless others he has touched during his all too-short life can only pray. When he will leave this realm is the only unanswered question as comfort is the only last concern. In the presence of such stark reality silence falls as the cold does, and yet profoundly, seemingly inherent within this parting is an awareness that loss must serve a purpose, for it presents an opportunity to search inward.
This week, while we were hanging strings of illumination all about our home, brighter news came of three newborn babies: Lily Lee, the granddaughter of my dear writer-friend Sara, Ana Vida daughter to my colleague Katy, and Evelyn Clementine daughter to dear Nate who used to race around my farmhouse years ago with my son Ari. Pictures came lightening fast through email and Facebook showing each as beautiful as the next. Each baby bringing their own promised gift of love. Each grabbing their parent’s whole soul and breath till all are wrapped into a luminous cocoon. Effortlessly, these beacons kindle wonder and transport all of us to a place that halts fear and doubt, for around these angelic radiant beings there is only daybreak.
The balance of our life cycle is unavoidable as Death comes with a formidable force. We are left with only the pound of our singular heart beating, while beyond something has ceased. But hidden within reticence, concealed from the bustle of life’s demands, does lie something for each of us to discover, something to be revealed only after one has fallen through to the underworld and discovered the cave of gems for themselves. Here, as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come points to the grave, we can declare, “I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been for this intercourse.”
This week we will go to our favorite tree-growers lot, and choose a tall spruce, one that will rise grandly to our nine foot ceiling and showcase our collection of rainbow orbs, silver and gold garlands, and all the strands of miniature lights we can weave within the boughs. Underneath we will place gifts, wrapped and bowed in splendor, all in the anticipation of gathering together with loved ones to share the duality of this season. And as the holiday wanes we will try to remember Scrooge’s brave words, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future.The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”