There has been much death in my families this year. Santa sent me a condolence letter that he said I ought to share with you.
When you get this letter, I will already be on my annual trip to deliver toys and presents. We missed you this year at the North Pole doing your usual job of helping us to track children who have moved. This has been an especially difficult year because of the policy of family separations at the border between Mexico and the United States. My helpers did their best to get children back with their parents, however, we were not completely successful. Some children will not be with their parents this year.
I know that this will be a difficult Christmas for you and for your families. There was more than one sudden death, so when you could not make it north, of course we understood. I am taking a quick moment to drop you this note. I am magic, but my magic does not extend to the ability to stop sickness or death. These things happen no matter the time of year. They are a parts of the human condition that take no holiday.
Every year I visit homes where death has just arrived or is about to arrive. There are no words that can take away the pain. I leave presents for children who have lost a parent earlier in the year, and this will be their first Christmas without them. I try in subtle ways to remind people of the words of the world’s great writers about death. There is this interesting book called “Writers on Death” by Amelia Carruthers that has some interesting insights. William Hale White wrote:
“Whenever anybody whom we love dies, we discover that although death is commonplace it is terribly original. We may have thought about it all our lives, but if it comes close to us, it is quite a new, strange thing to us, for which we are entirely unprepared. It may, perhaps, not be the bare loss so much as the strength of the bond which is broken that is the surprise, and we are debtors in a way to death for revealing something in us which ordinary life disguises.”
We are bonded to other people, and when they die, we lose a part of ourselves. More than that, every death is a sudden death. Even the deaths that we are expecting, even those where elders have lived long lives, a person breaths in and breaths out death comes and that is the end. Their essence their soul selves are gone to another dimension of life. They have disappeared from our sight, and the space they leave is a space that can never be filled.
For people who are dying, there is the contemplation of the unknown, what Shakespeare called “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” There are however, many people who look this inevitability in the face with good humor. Mark Twain said: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
I am not sure that I agree with Twain. I think that we have always lived in one form or another from the foundation of creation. In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. Bang! We are each a part of the Divine Love, that is God, that is the Source, that is the Mystery. As our bodies return to the earth in dust and ashes, the eternal aspect of who we are returns to eternity, returns to the mysterious source, to pure love, to God.
The Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero taught us that “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” And while the memory of your loved ones hurts right now. The pain will become less and less as time passes. Your tears will always have a will of their own. Respect the tears. Let them flow whenever they come. You will be minding your own business, thinking that life is good, then suddenly, your tears will come and your grief will be fresh.
I am sorry to say, there is no way out but through.
I know that this Christmas season, you went through the motions. What did you call the holiday season before your first visit to the North Pole? Female slave days, nothing but non-stop shopping, cooking, and cleaning. I am sure that there is not enough Fa La La La La to make you jolly this season. For some people who have experienced grief during this season, it will always be a bitter-sweet time.
I say and say again, honor what you are feeling. Do not try to be happy when you are not feeling happy. Sit with the pain. I know your mother used to tell you to learn how to bear the pain. The only thing that I would add is to be grateful. I know that is a difficult thing. To say thank you in the midst of holiday tears. But, know that your tears bond you with cords of compassion to all the other people on the earth who are weeping praying tears at that same moment.
So, my sister, know that you are not alone. And the teaching of Jesus the Christ, rabbi, prophet, moral philosopher, Son of Humanity, Son of Divine Love is true: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Peace,
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,