Bah Humbug!By Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
16th December 2019
I am trying to get festive. I really am. But little things tick me off.
Like Christmas decorations. Particularly the really garish ones. And the plastic snowmen. The ones in our house are okay. Right now, that’s the sum total of an undecorated Christmas tree. And fairy lights that never actually went down after Christmas 2017. Somehow they have stayed permanent, if not always lit.
Like Christmas greetings. Particularly the phrase “2020 will be better than 2019”. Well, I heard that at the end of 2018, the end of 2017, the end of 2016 and the end of 2015. I now hold my tongue as a response, and if I am feeling benevolent respond with a light, “gosh – I do hope so”.
Like Christmas chit chat. “You must be so happy to have Ben and Megan home”. Yes – I am. And their presence, while comforting and warm and noisy and large is not comforting or warm or noisy or large enough. Julia’s absence is ever-present. More than ever. I slept in her bed two nights ago, when both my big ones were home. I have barely been in her room since she died. I haven’t wanted to be there. But I wanted to be in her bed on Saturday night. I needed to be in her bed, just as I had got Ben & Megan home safe and sound.
Like Christmas letters. I can’t even go there. But one was particularly painful as it talked of a very exciting and special time that was slap bang the day before the letter writer joined me and my family in Geneva for my youngest child’s funeral. When I think what I was doing those days – visiting the morgue, finding clothes for my dead child, meeting the celebrant and arranging for Julia’s friends to come and talk, preparing a funeral speech, arranging for beds for visitors, talking to police, cooking meals galore. Cathy N – your Christmas letter remains a firm favourite – a type of Christmas letter that I have long wanted to emulate and haven’t managed to do yet. But I live in hope.
Like Christmas cards. And Christmas envelopes. The ones that say, “Dear Emma, Ben & Megan”. The ones that say no more than “Season’s Greetings”. Or, “Enjoy the Christmas Break and here’s to 2020”.
The envelopes that now say just “Emma Pearson” and used to say “Emma Pearson and Mike Kemp”. Or “Pearson & Kemp family”. Or “The Kemps”. The ones that have NO mention of Mike or Julia. Not even with ((huggy brackets)) around them. Which by the way would be nice. Nice-r, at any rate.
SAY THEIR NAMES! PLEASE. I know they are dead. Believe me, it’s smack bang in my face day in, day out. I haven’t forgotten. You won’t have “reminded” me. I won’t be offended. There’s no risk of that.
Write their names on the card. I don’t mind if it’s in the “main headline”. I would LOVE their names to be in the main greeting.
“Dear Emma, Ben, Megan, Mike and Julia”.
Or “Dear Emma, Ben, Megan, (Mike and Julia)”
Or do it just at the end.
I have thought about what feels right for me, in 2019. This is not to say that any of this will be valid for 2020.
“Dear Emma, Ben and Megan
Bla bla bla (puh-lease – nothing about 2020 being better than 2019, unless you are a certified fortune teller) bla bla bla, and perhaps something about knowing that it is an inexplicably horrible and violent time of year given everything that has gone on in our lives these past years (yes – years), and how you wish us all gentle comfort and ease to continue living with what is ours to carry.
And sending love and warmth and thinking of you all this Christmas, including and maybe especially Mike and Julia”.
As I returned home from the UK after a work trip and came across a small clutch of Christmas cards in the post, I was dismayed, my heart sank, as all but one failed to mention Mike or Julia. The one exception was from Lucy, a fellow widbud.
I wrote to my Mourning Glories widbuds and enquired as to how they felt about the gaping absences of their spouse’s name on cards, and by the way, they do not feel the same way as me. Clearly this is not a generalised complaint. Just my own.
And truth be told, I am trying to appreciate the gesture of Christmas cards. I do know that you cannot win. No words are right. There are no words that “work” when there have been so many losses. And I am sure that no Christmas card at all might actually feel worse, particularly if you’ve sent me one for 30 years.
I even feel a tiny bit ashamed of myself, not appreciating the efforts people (still) make to get proper cards in the snail mail. What a humongous task! I am not capable of it myself. I haven’t sent cards since Mike died and suspect I never will again. I don’t have it in me. (And the carbon footprint is not good, you know).
Anyway. I am not in too much of a grump. I realise that there is no winning. No words on any card are right. Naming Mike and Julia in stark ink would probably jolt me too. It would feel shocking. So few people say their names, and so it would be very courageous of you to name them in writing, and for sure it must feel mighty weird.
But for now, it’s what I want. If only in ((brackets)), or italics, or with the words “In spirit”. It’s too recent to gloss over their absence. Or indeed their presence. Still. For a while. Maybe forever.
And yes, if you courageously included Medjool’s name in the card, thank you. That is appreciated. For sure. Also brave of you.
And much as I love him, he does not replace Mike and Julia. The loss of Mike is still the size it was when he died. The loss of Julia is still the size it was when she died. The missing is devastatingly painful. AND the new love helps me function and gives me more hope than I might otherwise have.
Both And. Love and Loss. No glossing over.
Oh – and Season’s Greetings by the way. I promise I will do my best to put on a cheery front for the sake of whatever.
Mostly I can do it. Until I can’t.