December is a time of waning light. Increasing darkness until the solstice. It is a time of death and hibernation. An acquaintance of mine recently died and I was struck immediately with grief. I was surprised by how much I missed her. I didn’t know her that well and yet, I cried at the loss of her.
In conversation with a friend of mine, we realized that we often don’t know what someone means to us until they are gone. The hole left by their absence gives us the contours of their impact on our lives. It is as if we cannot see the whole of someone in our life until they have left it.
Marie Howe, one of my favorite poets, writes about the death of her brother in her poem “The Gate” with this starting line:
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made
(What the Living Do, p. 58)
The space that people leave when they leave us. Then we know what we are missing.
This is a grim topic for a December blog. It is supposed to be a time of celebration, gifts, singing, family, and friends. But it is also, let’s face it, a dark time. Even in the best of times. And this is not the best of times.
So in this darker time, as we wait for the light to return, let us look around at the contours of the people in our lives; to really see what they bring to us. The joy, the belonging, the hope and care that the people we care about are offering.
Blessings to you in this season. May light shine on you even in the dark times.