The Uncertain Fragility of Living
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish...
(Isaiah 9: 1)
It takes the passing away of loved ones - more precisely, parents - for us to recognise the fragility of time. Somehow their going away brings into sharp focus a sense of deep loss we feel along with a sense of bewilderment at how soon their passing has taken place.
A friend said to me that no matter when your parents pass away - whether it be on the actual
date or even 10 or 20 years later or even when we ourselves have turned elderly - it is always too soon!
Somehow we feel that they need to be with us forever and when mortality rears its ugly head and snatches them away we are surprised, perplexed and taken aback. Maybe in the exact same way that a little boy would feel when his lunch box has been stolen by a bully while he is still eating. Somehow we feel it was unfair and that makes us somewhat angry and upset.
This is not how we thought life was going to be. We felt that our parents would be with us for a long, long time. Although the very thought is somewhat irrational we always felt that the miracle of modern medicine and healthcare might just extend their days and there would be some way or the other to have them with us for as long as it's possible.
But then the inevitable takes place and we are faced with the reality of a broken heart, a grieving spirit and a soul in deep mourning.
Our heart starts wrestling with so many thoughts and questions: why did it happen and why so soon? Was there something we could have done? How will we manage life now that they are not around?
Somehow it's the last question that makes us ponder over the idea of time. As long as our parents are with us we feel that the precious moments will last forever even though there's that little thought telling us that may not be the case.
So we assume that things will just go on exactly the way they have always been and we adjust our lives accordingly. We don't do things with a sense of panic that utters, oh gosh, we got so little time with them... must pack in as much as we can in the little time we have.
What we do instead is pace things up without rushing, and take things slowly - every moment, every conversation, every meal, and every activity is conducted with the assurance of a tomorrow being shared.
And so as we share the prospect of a Christmas without them, we are troubled by that possibility. For our entire lives, we have never imagined there would ever be a Christmas without them. Somehow we have felt that Christmas celebrations go hand in hand with them around and so all of a sudden their absence makes it hard for us to celebrate.
We are left with a feeling of gloom and are deeply anguished, and in doing so, we somehow inadvertently find ourselves feeling deeply connected with the Christmas story. Isaiah the prophet spoke about the birth of the Messiah and said that his coming would be such that there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.
He then goes on to say that those who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and as we worship and celebrate the birth of the One who called himself the 'light of the world' we can take comfort in knowing that he knows our anguish, understands our pain and is there to lighten the darkness we find ourselves in.