This morning I got an e-mail from Jeff, whose son died this year after being in a coma since July 2005, when he was hit by a drunk driver while cycling home. I’ve never met Jeff, an LA screenwriter, but he feels like a friend. Since the accident, he has recorded his family’s experience through a listserv for followers of Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, a community from around the globe to which we both belong. His posts have been devastating in their honesty, intimate and beautiful.
Jeff’s letters are a gift, a regular reminder to live well, love hard, and keep the faith. Here’s today’s e-mail.
Dear friends and family,
We’re enjoying a bittersweet holiday season, our first without Danny. We often find ourselves shedding tears in unexpected times and places, as when I heard “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in the produce section the other day. Thankfully, we’re still receiving vast amounts of love from family and friends.
Initially, we decided not to get a tree or deck the house in the old, familiar ways, feeling that each ornament or mantle dressing would be too reminiscent of Danny spreading seasonal cheer to one and all with his music and humor. But our reluctance slowly diminished: Lynn went out and got a small tree which she and Katie trimmed. And one-by-one the boxes came in from the garage and decorations found their way to the usual places.
We also planned to forego our traditional trip the day after Christmas to New Hampshire, where we have a house alongside my mother’s place on a frozen pond in idyllic woods. The first day of every winter trip was spent shoveling snow and grooming a most excellent hockey rink. Each year, we’d drag a pair of small hockey goals out of the basement and spend days and nights on the ice. We’d play marathon hockey games with local friends or with whatever family members we could persuade to come out in the cold. But more often we played one-on-one, Danny and me, for hours and hours. Long after dark, we’d be out there using a clear plastic puck illuminated by a tiny glow-stick. In a good year, we’d enjoy moonlight as well. On more than one New Year’s Eve Lynn had to call us in at midnight for the family celebration. It was the best.
So I figured it’d be too hard to gaze out on the pond this year, especially when the sun is going down and the cold wind rises in the shadows. But then we got word that my sisters and brother and all their kids will be up there with my mom, and Lynn decided she really wanted to go. So we got tickets. And now Andy and Tricia have decided to come along too. And we’ll all excited about going.
And the best news of all is that we only have to make it through this one difficult Christmas, because at this time next year we’re going to be busy with TWO babies underfoot: when Lynn and I returned from a perfect trip to India in November, we were ecstatic to learn that Tricia and Andy are expecting twins. As I’ve told many friends, I can’t help but think Danny had a hand in arranging for two babies to come: had there been only one, Tricia and Andy might have kept it to themselves, but with two they’re going to need help plenty of help from all the grandparents. And in the wake of Danny’s passing, we’ve got plenty of time and love to lavish.
They don’t yet know the twins’ gender but it appears the pair will be identical. Lynn being an identical twin, Andy and Tricia have a veteran on their team.
You may remember that I wrote last year my cousin Kristi’s passing a few days before Christmas after a long bout of cancer. In August, Kristi’s daughter Julie and her fiancé Tim Austin, welcomed a beautiful boy named Oscar; and now Kristi’s daughter Rachael and husband Dan Lingle are expecting a baby girl named Ruby in April.
Loved ones pass and our hearts sink. New souls to love appear and our hearts are picked up again. Danny taught us that our time in the material world is temporary and often painful but can be transcended with love, faith and good cheer.
When Danny was in second grade, he came home from school confused because Ian Cogshall had told him there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. He asked me if it was true. I thought for a moment and replied, “Well Danny, all I know is that the kids who believe in Santa gets gifts from him; and the ones who don’t believe in him don’t.” Danny considered this, nodded and went out to play. We never discussed the existence of Santa again, from that day to the day he passed, and every year until this one there have been gifts beneath the tree marked, “To Danny. Love, Santa.”
It may sound sappy but, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, faith works much the same way: those who have it receive comfort and strength; those who don’t have it don’t. In May of this year, I lost what was most precious to me in all the world, and I’m still able to smile and love my family and friends. For that, I feel blessed and grateful every day. Thank you.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, a belated Eid Mubarak, and here’s hoping we all enjoy a happy, healthy 2009.
With Love, and UNITY, Lynn
To see Meher Baba in a Paramount newsreel in 1932, click here.