We were out of town this weekend visiting Ryan's family and attending the wedding of his cousin. The wedding was absolutely lovely and the reception full of joy and laughter and kids running willy nilly and ordering Shirley Temples to their hearts' content from the bar. Ryan's parents made us so welcome, as always. They took care of the kids so we could sleep late, planned a special birthday dinner for James, took us out for a yummy brunch before we left this morning, and made us feel welcome in every possible way. It was a great weekend.
But in the quiet moments, my heart was heavy. I learned Thursday evening that one of my dearest friends is going through something awful. I walked around Friday morning, crushed with sadness for her, trying to pick out something to send as a gift. Something that might cheer her up for a moment, but having no idea what that might be. Finally I picked out a few things and drove home to box them up. And then I heard the news from Connecticut.
And the world ceased to make sense.
I ached for my friend all weekend. I ached for those parents in Connecticut who were missing their babies. It was not an easy weekend, though it was fun.
And then tonight, back at home, I put dinner on the table and gathered everyone around and got out the lighter to light the Advent Candles. The kids recited the words as I lit them. The first one was for "hope". The second one was for "peace". And the third one, tonight's candle, the pink one, was for "joy".
I snarled in my mind, "Hope? Peace? Joy? SERIOUSLY?"
The events of the last three days seem totally at odds with the message of the Christmas season.
We continued with the ritual, asking the kids to reflect on those words and what they mean to them. They gave the usual, cute, funny, thoughtful (in some cases) answers and then resumed shoveling forkloads of shells and cheese into their mouths and laughing and joking and trying to blow the candles just hard enough to make the flames dance but not go out. It was a nice meal. We sang Christmas carols by candlelight around the piano afterward.
But I remained in a funk all through bedtime until I came back downstairs and opened up Facebook. Right there at the top someone had posted the words to one of my favorite Christmas songs:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
And then I remembered (again) that hope, peace, and joy in a dark, scary, chaotic world is exactly the point of Christmas. And for that I am grateful.