Christmas 2016 (General)

by dhw, Saturday, December 24, 2016, 12:53 (270 days ago)

Even for us agnostics, Christmas is a great time simply for the pleasures of family reunions, contacting old friends, giving and receiving gifts. Sometimes I try to pen an ode to that effect, but this year I can’t do it because I find myself overflowing with conflicting emotions. I’ll share them with you because for me they illustrate the great ambivalence that surrounds most aspects of our lives.

It was between Christmas and the New Year three years ago that my wife – who had a terminal form of cancer – suffered two strokes, the second of which left her totally unconscious. She died on 8 January. (In an unforgettable gesture of friendship and empathy, David and his wife came to England from the States to attend her funeral.) The grief is as low as emotion can reach.

This year, my elder son and his wife are expecting twins at the beginning of January. They and my daughter live just an hour’s drive away, and so I shall be able to see the newborn babies almost as soon as they arrive. Of course there is always the fear that something might go wrong, but the anticipation outweighs the fear, and I recall as if it were yesterday the sheer joy of seeing my own children as newborn babes. The sense of love, excitement and wonderment is as high as emotion can reach.

That is what I mean by life’s ambivalence. And perhaps we can’t have the one side without the other. The murderous events going on all round us sometimes make it difficult for us to perceive any sort of balance, but a friend of mine has just emailed me to say how inspired she has been by her experiences among a group of refugees - she is so impressed by their spirit, and I am so impressed by her desire to help them. Negative and positive, terror and loving kindness, loss and gain, death and birth. It’s a very different kind of dualism from the one we’ve discussed in the past (mind and body), but it raises just as many questions. I guess the moral is to accept it, and embrace and practise all the positives so long as we are able to do so.

I shall be spending Christmas with the family, and so there will be a few days’ silence from me, but in the meantime I hope everyone will enjoy the festivities, plus good health and all the other positives that make us happy to be alive. I’ll also look forward to announcing some “glad tidings” in due course. I don’t expect to see two stars shining over Bristol, but if all goes well, there will be two down below in the maternity ward.


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