Presence

fountain

Does it ever feel like Christmas presents are just a way to cope with the loss? An attempt to compensate? Not often but at least once every year, I feel that way.

There’s a guy I know who recently told me that he’s never been in contact with death. Between army training (medical school), suicides of acquaintances and friends getting into accidents, I think I’m getting close to 15 instances where I was emotionally involved.

Still, I don’t know where this grief comes from. Christmas should be a time of warmth and closure (and mass consumption but let’s not go there), and I guess it would be typically me to at least consider the opposite of the spectrum, but why would I feel so strongly about it?

Is there anyone close to you that died? Do you think of them at times like these? I hear my father mention my mother once in a while when he is emotional (“Your mother would be proud”) but I don’t know if he feels it, too. A number of the aforementioned deaths were friends and family of his, too.

As I grow older and cheat death, I get to see the people around me disappear, one by one. Every time I catch myself wishing they are happy now but I know better: They are gone and I will never see them again. Not my mother, not my childhood friend, not that kid on his bike.

As a determinist, I somewhat feel like happiness can be quantified. It can be measured, to an extent, in time and intensity, and stacks over the years. By that rationale, the dead have it the worst off: They get zilch.
The unhappiest child is the stillborn.

And we laugh and sing and give presents, ignoring the void in the living room: The black hole where our blood used to sit. Their missing adds up to a larger emptiness, a gaping mouth, that will one day take me, too. It’s almost tangibly present.

I can miss them so intensely, even after 20 years or even though I hardly knew them anymore. More than anyone living. I imagine the despair of their parents, who would gladly trade places, or remember my own as I stumbled, my foothold opened up into nothing.
It is such a massive shame, so infinitely sad that they are no longer here. What a terrible waste that they got taken for granted when they were.

I have no real reason to feel this way, especially around this specific time. I guess I did pick something up in baggage as I had to leave their memory behind.
There are so many. Thousands, millions who were loved and what they all have in common is that they didn’t deserve to die.

My friend’s parents will be having their first Christmas in 29 years, without their son. The contrast couldn’t be more glaring. In celebration of the rebirth of a saint, the loss of a young man’s death is only felt stronger.

What bothers me the most is that there is no real consolation. You can look at it one way or another and go with what you feel is best, but it’s just a bridge over the gap, a way around cold hard facts: They are gone. They are dead. And we lucky few, swerve around the accidents and illnesses and live on without them. There is no “why” to it (trust me), only “how”.

How do we live on, how do we cope with the loss. I don’t know. The shock numbs and the tears dry, but I still haven’t found how to deal with it, much like how problems are dealt with. No conclusion, no solution, and in the end, no comfort.

I miss my mother. I miss my friend. I miss the kid they dragged out of the go kart in Croatia. I miss my father’s friend. I miss my uncle. I miss my ex’ grandmother. I miss them so desperately.

Once every year.

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