Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The holidays are here and so are the stresses and tensions of being joyful and grateful and reflective and excited about the new beginnings represented by the turn of the year. 

If your life is in order and you're simply marking traditions and time passing, it's safe to whine about the weather and items to accomplish on the to-do list before each holiday event and happening.  In this case, happiness abounds, particularly when you lift your head and count your blessings.

But if life has come skidding to a sudden halt or floats in limbo--if someone is in the hospital or far away, if you're losing your house or your marriage--then it could be the 22nd of December or the 3rd of January for all that date and time matter. 

I think about this sudden convergence of what truly matters when bad things happen.  I think about the cookies I'm baking and errands I'm running and cards I'm addressing and stamping and old friends I'm seeing and gifts I'm buying and making and bags I'm packing, and how luxurious all that is. 

I think of those for whom the holidays are on hold or not happening this year.  Or for whom they're different. 

We're out of school and removed from the tangible grief of our students for their classmate.  Removed from his name on our rosters and his family's home, not ten blocks from his math and English classes.  I am getting ready for Christmas.  But I am conscious that his family, cookies baking or not, holiday traditions maintaining or not, is still mourning.  Forever, in some measure.

The significance of the passing of a member of one's community is aply captured by an anonymous student who signed the butcher paper stretched on our cafeteria tables in the hours, days, and weeks after his death in honor of D, our lost classmate.   

Without the explicit permission from their author, I share these words.  They resonate.

I didn't know you.
I never met you, spoke to you, saw you.  But you were one of us.  A classmate.  A friend, a son, a person. 

The loss of any life is heartbreaking. 
Even though we never met.  Never talked.
Never waved at each other from across the hall. 
Never made a private joke about one of our teachers. 
Even though none of this happened between you and I, doesn't mean it didn't occur.  It doesn't make you unimportant in my eyes simply because I never met you.

I am so, so sorry.  Your life is lost,
and that is unbelievably sad.  And even
though I never met you, I'll miss you.  I'll
remember you.  You are important.  You
may be lost, but you will live on in
memory.  Memory of a smile.  An inside joke.
Your friends and family miss you,
and I'm sorry for their loss. 
Please be in peace,
wherever you are. 
Please stay in our memories. 
I never met you,
but I love you.

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