What follows is my contribution to this space:
Along with the coloured lights on streets and trees, and the lift of gathering with friends and family, Christmas also delivers a package of sadness, a bundle of holes.
Holes: a mother who died last year on Christmas eve; the year before, a part of the family is torn away; Christmas before that, someone close goes into treatment; Christmas before that, a treasured friend is diagnosed with cancer; and for repeated Christmas’, a family member who lives in pain.
These holes gape—twice as wide and hollow by the arrival of Christmas. They’re hard to bear. Sometimes impossible to bear. And so we break. We grieve. And then, somehow, we endure by grieving with others who grieve.
We mourn. For we all have holes. We gather, face the gale, and let the wind whistle through our holes, abandoning any attempt to plug them with pious resolve, virtue, activity, notions of “God’s will.”
We light candles to our losses. We draw pictures, we write them out, paint them, sculpt them, make them into blue songs—then, maybe, just maybe, in time, they float to the surface and are set adrift. Replaced with a ripple, a wave, perhaps a tide of comfort.
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Perhaps among the stories and carols these too are the right words for Christmas. Perhaps, for those in corners where the strings of lights don’t reach, these words may be liberating.
“Blessed are they that mourn.” We need no other accreditation, certification, right standing, justification, preparation, except to mourn. Such space, such allowance to throw off all that advise, those assurances and social dictates that say, or imply, stand up and get on with it—is resuscitating.
“For they shall be comforted.” Not in some world to come. But sometime when we’re together. Perhaps later, perhaps sometime soon. Maybe not for always, but for moment—maybe in the middle of relaying a memory, there’s a smile, some laughter.
Moralists may spurn this permission to mourn. But here, in these words, mourning—that western cultural embarrassment—is elevated to a way. Not a way through, but a way with—a way to walk and carry.
So mourn. Mourn what’s missing, mourn the loss, the hurt, the inability to go back and say all the things we wanted to say, all the unfinished business that will stay unfinished.
For somehow—if only in being internally true—we are blessed through mourning. Blessed by the deep artful movements of the human heart. Blessed by our heart’s own wisdom. Blessed beyond our weak cognition to the seat of ache and joy—that complex amalgam of ache and joy. Where we live.