12 Days to Christmas
It has been a while since I wrote anything in my blog on a regular basis, and it has been even longer since I worked on my Christmas diaries. It must have been 2008 when I began what became an annual ritual but for some reason I stopped. It wasn't just the Christmas diaries that sputtered to a halt but even my blogging became rather sporadic and then reduced to a few.
This year I thought I should make a return to the Christmas diaries, and felt I should do so on the 12th day to Christmas... just like the good old days!
There is a certain deja vu to the diaries this year. In 2008, my parents were in India and so it was the first Christmas without them in Bahrain. It felt odd but we knew they were just a phone call away and so on Christmas day we called them up and told them how much we missed them here and also how happy we were that they were able to celebrate with my other siblings and their families in India.
This year when I decided to return to the Christmas diaries my parents are not with me again but this time their absence is made more poignant by the fact that they have both 'gone to be with the Lord' in a space of just four months of each other. What this means is that unlike 2008 they are not a phone call away and neither are they in some distant land that would require purchasing of an airline ticket to meet them.
We can imagine they are somewhere else and thus spare ourselves some heartbreak but we would be fooling ourselves if we do that but fact remains that this will be the first Christmas without them and that in itself will probably make this the hardest Christmas for me and my family.
All our lives we have associated Christmas with merriment, festivities and joy, and we are also inundated with songs that scream, 'this is the most wonderful time of the year.' However, when we are faced with grief and bereavement the merriment associated with Christmas seems more heartbreaking since we are reminded each time of the aching void we feel because the two people we love the most are not with us... these two people who for our entire lives epitomized the very idea of Christmas festivities are no longer present and that makes celebration somewhat harder.
So the question is, do we celebrate because they are not here? Or if we decide to pause, how long should this pause last - a year or two? Or till we get over it? Do we really go over it?
I guess, there are no simple answers to these questions... the loss of parents is a deep wound that can last a lifetime, and pausing celebration may not completely address the pain we feel. We are not likely to get over this loss and the pain will continue in some degree or the other. In some ways, we will have to learn how to live with this new reality and discover the hidden blessings like spotting silver linings in dark clouds.
In some ways, the first Christmas can point to a better understanding of how we can celebrate when all we want to do is cry our lungs out because our parents are not with us. At a certain level when we say that they have 'gone to be with the Lord' we need to rejoice in that fact because they are now in a much better place and in the company of Him whom they have loved and worshipped their entire lives.
We will learn slowly but surely that their absence is not a complete extinction of their selves but simply a journey to another realm where we will meet them again after having 'moved on', so to speak. It is during such times that we will also come to grips with how to deal with death - is it really a finality and a point of no return or should we use this moment to re-examine the Easter story where Christ conquered death and became the 'resurrection and the life'?
If we say we believe our creed, we must ask ourselves: is it only applicable when things are going right in our lives? Shouldn't they be relevant - and true - even when we re facing grief, loss and suffering?
Faith as we all know is a journey and John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress has shown that it is not always a smooth road. We all have questions - these days I have lots of them - but am also reminded that when Christ's birth was announced he was described as Immanuel, which means God with us.
In other words, as we walk this road of life in our pain and our grief, God is not hiding somewhere up in the sky but he is with us on the road... walking with us, shielding us with his presence, and whispering to us these words that he spoke to his disciples and also to us:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27)