Thursday, December 13, 2007

At the crossroad of joy and loss

Everyone warned me the holidays would be difficult this year. Friends who had lost loved ones said the sights and sounds of Christmas would stir painful, lovely memories of my husband and the many holidays we celebrated together before his death.

The blow didn't fall, though, until I came across an old videotape that we shot at Christmastime 15 years ago. It was easy to smile as the camera zoomed in on familiar old ornaments that were then shiny and new. It was delightful to see my son, now a senior in high school, be once again a wide-eyed toddler. And then a clear, sweet tenor voice began to sing:

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
who mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel will come to thee, o Israel.

We used to sing that ancient chant every night as we lit the Advent candles -- a cry of yearning, of hope, of wildest dreams coming true at long last.

The intersection of joy and loss was almost unbearable.

And yet, that aching crossroad brought me closer to Christmas than any trip to the tinsel-bedecked malls could. It reminded me that the coming of the Christ child, like any baby's birth, involved both pain and hope. The pain of labor passes, but the hope endures because new life has been born, full of possibility. Here and now are transformed by the eternal.

"Emmanuel" means "God with us." With us in the craziness of December. In the emptiness of loss. In the agony of birth. In the fading videos of memory and the boxes of dusty ornaments waiting to be hung on a newly cut tree.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing! this season is like that for me, as well.

Nick said...

Is there a place I can go to to hear this story? I've heard you talk about the loss of your husband, but since I'm the new guy in town, I don't know the details.

D.J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D.J. said...

Good post, Jane. 'Emmanuel' is a great song. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo020759 said...

I don't think I can add to that, Jane. Beautifully worded!

All I can say is 1) may God grant you the Peace and Joy that is His this Christmas season and always and 2) continue to stay close to God; you'll get a better view of your husband from there!

Peace!

Jane Pope said...

Nick,
My 49-year-old husband, Gary, died in April of cancer. I wrote a few columns on the Viewpoint page about his illness and its conclusion, probably before your arrival:

"Catching transient glories" (Nov. 13, 2005)
"Beyond loss and fear, the glad surprise" (April 16, 2006)
"Light and joy dispel the night" (Dec. 17, 2006)
"A fitting farewell to the fiddler" (May 6, 2007)
"Dance of grief and gratitude" (May 13, 2007)

Jane

Nick said...
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Nick said...

Oops! Wrong page! Jane. If you could delete my last post and I'll put it on the correct page, I'd appreciate it.

Yep. Those were before my arrival. I arrived at the very end of September this year. I'll have to check those articles sometime.