A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices
Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning, the quintessential anticipatory moments. The highest hopes peak for ideal presents and wishes fulfilled. Bags and boxes stuffed with things but tied to hearts yearning for contentment.
Christmas was disappointing this year. We missed out on our family Christmas Eve celebration. We thought it would be different this year. It's our own choice, yes. We chose isolation over gathering but not because we wanted to choose it.
This whole pandemic has been full of choices we've not wanted to make. Shall I pick isolating my children and compromise their social-emotional well-being OR subject my immunosuppressed child who is on immunosuppressants to a virus that could potentially cause her a relapse that she and we have been working so hard to prevent? There isn't a good choice here. It's not like I'm picking between a week in Tahiti or The Virgin Islands where my biggest concern is SPF and cocktail options. Instead, I'm picking between awful and terrible.
Do I isolate Anna's brothers and drive them to loneliness or do I let them hang with their friends and leave them to shoulder the guilt of putting her back in the hospital? Who wants to make that decision?
If I'm honest, I'm painfully resentful at times. Angry at the unfairness that has landed us here. Sulking as I watch the world traipse about maskless and gathering with whom and when they chose. Feeling at times forgotten. And to that influencer who so brazenly preaches, "Unmask your children!", Do you, Sir, think I WANT to mask my children? Do you, Sir, think I'm at liberty to take chances? Do you, Sir, think I could live with myself if I was wrong? It must be nice to see things so black and white that platitudes can suffice in directing your life. At times, I'm jealous of your simple-mindedness.
Now, where were we before I started my self-pitying tirade? Ah yes, hope...the thrill of it. I'd never really paid attention to that line in Ava Maria before. But I heard it this year, as if for the first time. " A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices" In the midst of the weariness, hope is experienced. The weariness still stands and yet at the same time elation at the promise of something more.
Hope can be a fickle thing. I have thought about hope a lot since Anna got sick. I understand the need for hope, yet it's elusive and I'm not sure what it actually is. Maybe this is why it is thrilling. It lands on your unsuspecting and needy shoulder and sits a while reminding you that there is more to things than what appears in the moment. It has the power to blanket a chaotic scene with calm, not fixing a thing, just providing the fuel and perspective to get through it. Hope, so powerful yet so tricky to grasp.
Two nights before Christmas, my youngest reflected, "I'm lonely, mom. I always thought it was the presents that made Christmas fun but now I know that it's the people. It's just no fun without the people." He asked for very little this year, nothing seemed to itch the scratch. And so, Christmas morning, he unwrapped his presents, with the thrill of hope, only to be disappointed by a jacket that was too itchy, a blanket that was too hot, a ball he already had, and a bunch of stuff that he didn't even ask for. The wrapped boxes had paraded as hope but inside only more weariness for the already weary.
The Christmas tradition is based on a story of hope in the midst of weariness. A story about a tiny baby, brought into the world against all odds, who would grow up to show and teach how love is transformative. The story, of course, is strange and very unbelievable at times. It's also a story that has been told by people who aren't very loving and kind themselves, which can also make it hard to digest. But if you can get beyond that, the story itself is lovely. It involves odd people, in compromising situations, dealing with circumstances they never could've imagined and circumstances that others would have trouble believing even if told about. Relatable, yes? It has all the elements of a fantastic tale; animals, guiding lights, wise people, a tired mother, a confused father, a jealous and crooked politician, a bit of mystery and magic, and of course hope. Hope, not because the story works out so cleanly and is retold so perfectly, but because somewhere, in spite of all the ridiculousness and bad translations, it always ends with the birth of love.
And maybe, now that I think of it, that is what hope is; the promise of the arrival of love in the midst of the weariest moments, somehow and some way, even if ridiculous and unbelievable.
And so it was for us, in the midst of my resentment, my youngest's bitter disappointment, and our family's overall weariness, there were still gifts of hope that I will acknowledge and cherish. In the extension of tolerance from one brother to another, in the presence of togetherness around the tree, in the giving of forgiveness from a husband to a grumbly wife, and in the joy only two golden retrievers can deliver.
Merry Christmas Friends. I hope if you find yourself weary this Christmas, that you are nonetheless thrilled by hope, and that love, in spite of all circumstances, will be born again and again.