My mother loved poetry, particularily that of Alfred Lord Tennyson. On my 16th birthday she gave me a collection of his poetry, from which I read at her funeral. When her father died she turned to his poem Crossing the Bar for comfort. I read the same words for comfort at her service.
I would not consider myself a lover of poetry. Perhaps that is why I find so it interesting that in my growing grief over my first Christmas without my mother I found myself reading Tennyson. This time I found comfort in his work “A Grief at Christmas.”
This year I slept and woke with pain,
I almost wish’d no more to wake,
And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:
But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll’d me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touched with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.
With such compelling cause to grieve
As daily vexes household peace,
And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;
I admit I had to seek out smarter minds than mine to glean some of the meaning but it still spoke to me. I have always loved the holidays – my mother did too. I get caught up in all the activity and do too much… but I enjoy all of it.
This year I’m still doing it all, but I’m having trouble enjoying it. The world just seems a little grey. I’ve always been so caught in the family element of Christmas. Now that my family is so much smaller, the spirit seems smaller too.
I know I’m not alone. I know there are many dealing with loss this year. I’m not writing this is self-pity. It’s more an acknowledge that we who are grieving are not alone. As great as this season can be, it can also be greatly difficult. The best advice I’ve received is to just let myself be sad.
Things are different this year and I cannot pretend otherwise. For now, that has to be enough. There will be moments of joy and there will be moments for other emotions too. Perhaps, if we let ourselves experience them all we’ll be a little closer to the true meaning of Christmas.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor;
Ring in redress of all mankind.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.