My youngest son phoned me last night to say he is coming home from university sometime this week and I am looking forward to his return. This might not sound so surprising but it is actually the first time I have consciously looked forward to something since Kev died. Driving home from work that day I was looking forward to the weekend which we had already planned together. Since then I haven’t really been able to anticipate anything with pleasure except perhaps sleep and even that can be marred by insomnia or distressing dreams. So the sensation of looking forward is a good one; I am looking forward just to seeing Matt, to a hug, to the chance to feed him, to talk, and to listen to him and his brother. Although my sons are not very close they do increasingly talk to each other and will even have a laugh and joke sometimes– for the bantz- as they say!
It is a real blessing that I have my family and I was aware, even through the first shock and numbness, that I had two young people both to some extent dependent on me and so I had to keep going. It is one of the things that gets me out of bed at 6.15 on a freezing morning and into work and it is what will make it possible for me to keep some sort of a Christmas this year. Left to my own devices, I might just crawl back into bed but my wonderful, amazing sons deserve something better than that, and so I will make sure there is at least a welcoming home and some of our family traditions, even though the lynchpin of that family is no longer here.
I’ve been trying to think about Advent and what it means to me this year. Advent is often seen as a period of joyful waiting and watching but it is true to say that it is not wholly devoid of the bleakness of waiting, of waiting that seems to have no end. Surely we find such waiting in the long and doubtless grief-stricken barrenness of Elizabeth, in characters such as Simeon and the tradition of his increasing blindness which might be seen as a metaphor for the gradual extinguishing of hope, in the long exile of the Jews, and in all who wait for deliverance. Bonhoeffer described Advent as like, "a prison cell in which we wait and hope, the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside," while C.S.Lewis gives us Narnia where it is always winter and never Christmas and the hapless figures at Cair Paravel are paralysed, frozen in time.
I know that come Christmas day our family will still be paralysed with grief because grief has its own time and seasons and by its nature won’t and can’t be hurried on. But we will talk, laugh, maybe cry. There may only be a little joy but I am hoping for peace,and I am sure there will be plenty of love.