Functional, Broken, Hopeful

I’m feeling it more this year, the wistfulness and the yearning. It sits just beneath the surface of things, the glittery ornaments and buttery desserts and the nostalgia. My uncomplicated self wants to stay buoyant and breathe the easy air of good tidings and cheer.  No brokenness please, just joy and wonder.

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Christmas 2013, photo by Jennifer Rialtos. 

It’s the fourth Christmas without her, and I’m more functional. I can go down the toy aisle, participate in white elephant exchanges and wear an ugly sweater (mine has a unicorn, of course.)  It’s supposed to get easier. That’s the normal progression of things, right?

Right. But can we really talk about “right” and “normal” when the amount of time you’ve had your Christmas tree (six years and change) already exceeds the amount of time you got with your daughter (five years and 293 days)?  The disparity will keep growing, but she will not. We can add new ornaments, but can’t create any new memories, not as a family of four. It’s not right, it’s not normal, and I will never like it.

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The difference this year is that I can see, more and more, that it’s not just me. In this season of warmth and celebration, I see fractured families, lost dreams, failing bodies, fear, despair, loneliness. Brokenness is multi-faceted and ubiquitous, a part of being human.

This nativity scene, different from any other I’ve seen, captures it best.

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The Nativity, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1887. Public Domain. Burne-Jones was an English artist whose second child died in infancy. 

Mary is embracing her baby. Joseph is by their side and three angels bow their heads reverently. It depicts a birth, but it could just as easily be a death.

Life and death, joy and pain. It’s a fine line that, when things are set right, will become a chasm. This is the hope of Christmas.

 

 

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First Christmas