Dearest Rachel –
I had to save the most painful secular song for today, since it’s been eleven months since the accident. You didn’t think I’d forget what the twenty-third of the month was so soon, did you?
It’s hard to think about it that way, since none of us on this since think of anywhere but here on earth as our home. But the fact is, you’re the one who’s ‘home for Christmas,’ rather than us – and have been for eleven months now. Still, it’s hard to accept, not having memory of being there before.
This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,This World is Not My Home, unknown author, c. 1919
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
This song packs an extra punch to it, because of the musical we performed at church that centered around this song – although ironically, I’ve since discovered that the song wasn’t released until 1943, compared against the fact that the musical was set in 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jan and I discovered that you had saved the entire collection of music scores from it (entirely on-brand for you, as you never wanted to see anything ever going to waste), only for the two of us to throw out all but one in the process of cleaning up the house. At least we’d kept the one as a memento – there wasn’t any point to keeping more than one. It’s not like we’d ever organize another performance, at any point.
But while the historical context of the musical turns out to have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, it’s true that the song was out – and popular! – during the war, and there were at least two Christmases in which both servicemen and their families had no idea whether they would ever be home for Christmas again – and of course, there were thousands of them that never would be.
In fact, by now, nearly the entire generation that first listened to that song has joined them – and you – in the hereafter. Every family, everybody has someone who will never again join them at home for Christmas. So once again, I’m left having to answer for why I should get so upset about this song, when my situation is not only not unique, but befallen to every person on earth?
I’m going to insist that just because one’s suffering is “common to all mankind,” that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still hurt, and I still have the right to speak out about that pain. In fact, I’d go so far as to claim that ignoring it and just soldiering on without acknowledging it is downright dangerous; bottling up emotions is a good way to induce an explosion somewhere later down the road. I have to grieve, for as long as it takes. Indeed, it’s weird to realize that of the Grief Share group I had been involved with, I think mine was the newest, with at least one whose loss had been more than ten years previous. It takes time, and effort, and just facing it and dealing with it.
So I’ve listened to this song several times throughout the season – mostly inadvertently, because why would I go out of my way to inflict it upon myself? – and I don’t quite know how to deal with it. You’ve shown up in a dream or two since you left, but I really wish I could see you more often. Since you’re not here, we don’t bother dressing up the place in any Christmas finery – I’m sure you wouldn’t approve, but we know you won’t be by, so what’s the point? And as for the love light, well… all I see right now is smoke. There’s no flame, and no reason I can see to try to encourage one. Much as I’d like to kindle something, I can’t imagine with whom (other dreams notwithstanding).
At least there’s a parody version out there to soften its impact; you’ll remember how we used to listen to a mix tape collection of such parodies en route to your folks’ house over the holidays (indeed, it was you who made a point of collecting everything on your iPod so we could do so, rather than me, despite – or maybe because of – the large collection of music I already had on mine). Granted, it’s patterned after the Dean Martin cover of the song (and tweaks the fact that Martin was an absolutely legendary drinker)
At least in the song, someone’s being socially responsible by hiding the singer’s keys. Maybe I should go over the list of parodies ‘on the twelfth day of Christmas’ as a palate cleanser from all the moroseness of all the songs I’ve been going over thus far, just for old times’ sake.
Until then, honey, take care of yourself – and us, if you can. Hope to see you in another dream soon.