Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Blues

When we think of holidays, the first thing that comes to mind is the time we will spend with our loved ones, but what happens when our loved ones are no longer there to share the cheer? As happy and cheerful as the holiday season is for some, it is probably the hardest time of year for those who have lost someone they love.

Several years ago – when I first moved to the US, far away from most I hold dear – a friend gave me a small book entitled “There’s No Such Place As Far Away” by Richard Bach. I didn’t touch it for a while; then, one morning, as I was sitting alone in my empty apartment, feeling alone and disconnected from everyone, I picked the little book up and began to read. It was the story of a little boy who had moved really far away from his best friend. On the day of his friend’s birthday he wanted to celebrate with him, and the pain he felt in his heart, being so far away, was overwhelming and unbearable. He asked several birds if they could help him get to his friend’s house, and all of them told him they were too small to carry him or they had other things to do. Finally, a wise bird told the little boy: “If you truly love your friend, aren’t you already there with him? The only thing that separates you from him is space, and space is never larger than love.” The little boy thought about it for a while, then realized the bird was right. His friend loved him, and knew he was loved back; most of all, his friend would not want him to be sad on such a special day; the best thing the little boy could do would be to look in his heart and find the joy his friend’s birthday brought to him, whether they could spend it together or not. So the little boy went on about his day, wishing his friend a happy birthday and knowing that, even if they were apart, their memories joined them forever.

True love and friendship cannot be cut short by boundaries of time, space or form. When we truly love someone, we can still be with them through the power of the memories built together and know they will never leave us, as the sound of their voice will forever echo through the walls of our hearts.

Our loved ones would not want to see us unhappy; although they crossed over and shed their outer shell, their true essence is still with us, and the love they felt for us is still alive. Rather than feeling guilty or empty at the thought of celebrating a special day without them, we should make it a point to celebrate it in their honor. A Christmas song, or a Thanksgiving meal, should not be daggers in the heart, but chances to reminisce the happy moments we spent with our loved ones while they were still with us; a beautiful array of decorations should not feel like an insult to our grief, but remind us of the times we decked the halls together.

By letting go of the pain we are not letting go of the love for the person who’s no longer with us. The grief we feel is an invisible chain we hang on to in the hope of remaining connected somehow, a silver cord which prevents us from separating completely. Although we may feel as if we are shamefully betraying our loved ones by daring to be happy without them, we are instead honoring their memory by infusing life into a moment they would love to share with us, and we can respectfully thank them for the beautiful memories they have gifted us with.

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