God Bless

Dearest Rachel –

Another day of the season, another song to talk about.

But this isn’t just any day; it’s Christmas itself. The day of Our Lord. The day when, as my dad often puts it, “the complaint department is closed.”

So I will just talk about a song for whom my only complaint is that it doesn’t get nearly the amount of play it deserves, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the Bicât brothers copywrote it such that it doesn’t get airplay except when a certain production of “A Christmas Carol” is aired – you know the one, the one we always used to watch together, and missed out on last year (partly because you set up an ambitious goal to find and watch all the versions you could. We got to the one featuring Mister Magoo, but I think that was about it, unless you viewed some while I was at the ‘office’). And, to be honest, I don’t know when we’ll get back to watching it again, since we won’t be together to do so. It’s just not the same without sharing it with someone else – it’s why I gave up on sports, after all.

But at least, there’s the song.

I had tried to transcribe this music and create a four-part harmony for it shortly after I retired, as I tried to study composition using Vocaloid software, but for some reason, once the pandemic hit, I wound up having to set that aside. Even after getting back to the ‘office’ months later, plans of doing YouTube animation and Vocaloid compositions fell by the wayside, as the church’s new acquisition of the camp (that would eventually claim you) needed my more professional attention. I haven’t been able to find the composition to attache here, and even if I could, I’m pretty certain it was never completed, so that would be pointless in any event.

That having been said, here are the lyrics that I tried make a little clearer through synthetic voices, only to have lost my work on the project:

The past of man was cold as ice:
He would not mend his ways.
He strove for silver in his heart
And gold in all his days.
His reason weak, his anger sharp,
And sorrow all his pay,
He went to church but once a year,
And that was Christmas Day.

So grant us all a change of heart,
Rejoice for Mary’s Son;
Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
God bless us everyone!

The present man is full of flame:
He rushes here and there.
He turns away the orphan child,
The widow in her chair.
He takes from them he merely meets,
Forgets how brief his stay,
And stands a-jingling of his coins
In church on Christmas Day.

So grant us all a change of heart,
Rejoice for Mary’s Son;
Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
God bless us everyone!

The man to come we do not know:
May he make peace on earth,
And live the glory of the Word,
The message of the birth,
And gather all the children in
To banish their dismay,
Lift up his heart among the bells
In church on Christmas Day.

So grant us all a change of heart,
Rejoice for Mary’s Son;
Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
God bless us everyone!

“God Bless Us Everyone” from A Christmas Carol (1984), music by Nick Bicât, lyrics by Tony Bicât

I’ve always favored this version, as Scott’s Scrooge actually does come across as ‘a reasonable man,’ given both the times and his own circumstances. Even in his initial refusal of those seeking donations (and who doesn’t turn down a vast number of alleged charities these days?), he doesn’t fume or storm at the gentlemen asking. He simply explains his position toward the holiday (that he doesn’t make merry himself) and what conclusion that leads him to (that he sees no reason to bankroll other people ‘making merry’ on the day). Of course, he’s uninformed as to what is involved, and the truly dire straits many of the poor are in, but he’s actually restrained, almost polite in his refusal. Almost.

As for the the part that’s the most moving, I’ve already said my piece about old Fezziwig. I’m glad that you knew that I consider myself a lucky man to have had you in my life. I’m only sorry now that I have to proclaim my good fortune more like Bob Cratchit talking about Tiny Tim than like Ebeneezer’s jolly old boss.

Meanwhile, you were a great fan of Edward Woodward, especially in his later role as The Equalizer, but his turn here as the ghost of Christmas Present is a tour de force. He lets Scrooge have it with both barrels nearly every time the old man dares to comment on the scene surrounding him (although he does have the grace to back down when Scrooge pushes back while ‘participating’ in the game at his nephew’s house). The least the ghost could have done for Scrooge would have been to read him his Miranda rights (not like that was a thing in Victorian England – or even in America at that point in time, having been enshrined in our constitutional makeup only a few years before either of us were born) about how “anything you say [or, apparently, have said] can and will be used against you.” Kind of like social media today.

In every version of the story, Tiny Tim is said (as generally related by his father, Bob) that he hoped that the people in church saw him, and noticed that he was crippled, and would therefore recall on Christmas Who it was that made lame men walk and blind men see. Perhaps it’s not as obvious with Daniel and myself, since we bear no visible scars of the damage we have suffered this year from losing you, but it would be heartening to think that those who know us would consider the fact that, because of Christmas (and Good Friday and especially Easter), we – and everyone else who has suffered such a loss as ours – can know that you are with Him this Christmas, and that we have the assurance that we will, in fact, see each other once again, thanks to that same Man who healed both the lame and the blind.

Separate from the story – or any of its adaptations – I should mention that I’ve been using the phrase ‘god bless’ much more frequently than I ever used to. Most of that is simply due to Erin, and our conversations, either in text or on the phone. It’s how she signs herself off, and I try to respond in kind – especially since, if I’m not sufficiently careful, I might utter one of any number of phrases I would have said to you in closing, few of which would be suitable for a purely platonic relationship. I even have to make a point of referring to her as ‘girl’ in order to avoid anything like ‘dear’ or ‘honey’ – pet names reserved for someone closer than we ought to be.

But for all the losses we have dealt with in this terrible year of Our Lord 2021, I am forced to acknowledge that He has, in fact, given us so many blessings. To insist otherwise would be to rage at the heavens like Jonah complaining about the shade vine that God raised for him, and then just as quickly, caused to wither. I had nothing to do with your existence, nor the choices you and your parents made that caused you to cross my path. I did set myself down in your shade, and enjoyed the coolness and relief it brought me, and maybe I did a little more to tend to you than Jonah did for his vine, but my part was negligible compared to God’s hand in bringing us together. So, with the vine withered and turned to dust, and now my having to face the heat of the desert wind without you, I need to remember that once I was blessed with that shade for at least a time.

And maybe, in time, there will come more blessing and relief yet.

Until then, honey, wish us luck, and bless us, Father. We need them both.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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