Thinking that life has passed them by"
- America, "Lonely People"
The holiday season is a time for family, friends, fellowship and goodwill. The holidays are also, however, a dark time for many. In several ways I’ve been reminded of this over the last week or so and it has made me tremendously sad.
Through a variety of events – both natural and man-made – my wife and I found ourselves flying solo for Christmas. Christmas is also my wife’s birthday. Because of the dual purpose of December 25th in our lives, we split the day into morning Christmas and afternoon birthday. Usually we take the gang bowling at our local casino resort and make a night out of it – mostly because it’s the only place open! This year it would be just the two of us with one friend along. We would stay the night and have fun. An ice storm pushed our departure to Christmas Eve and we had two nights there and I spent a lot of time walking around and observing.
“He walks on, doesn't look backHe pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there.”
- Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise”
One woman, loud and apparently exuberant, was playing a machine and loudly chiding it – talking to no one in particular but hoping someone would listen. The sparkle in her eye was deceiving. It dissolved swiftly to an emptiness; a longing to be heard; to communicate; to have contact with another person. Funny at first, her act wore on those around her and they stopped playing along. The more desperate she was, the more outrageous she would become. Negative attention was still attention. She eventually left, broke and broken. A smile on her face but a terrible sadness behind her eyes.
An older couple at the otherwise empty bar after midnight. Eve was becoming Day but here last call was approaching and another drink was in order. Faces red from time at the bar not from the ice storm outside, they talked at each other. Heads down, no signs of closeness but a shared sadness was evident.
“Merry Christmas,” he said to her with not even a trace of a smile.
“Yeah…” she replied, never looking up.
No more words were spoken between the two. Any intimacies they once shared were gone, beaten down by time and circumstance. What it was that caused such obvious sadness wasn’t evident, but it was there.
“So many faces in and out of my lifeSome will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again”
- Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”
On the eve of the Eve a friend passed away in Vegas. Young guy. Bright, talented, larger than life in many ways. The circumstances were sad but ultimately, after losing his wife suddenly a year ago, I believe that he gave up. I cannot imagine the magnitude of that loss on someone and for him it was the beginning of the end. Only a couple of days before Christmas he lost his battle with infection and a series of small strokes and went to join his beloved wife.
One of my very dear friends, family really, lost her dad a few days before Christmas. The man could light up a room and everyone in it. Now that light was gone. A husband, father, grandfather and all around wonderful man was gone after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. For nearly 20-years I was able to call him my friend and, while my sense of loss is deep, it does not compare to his wife, children and many grandchildren that will now see the holiday season as a sad time.
Are these life’s blows that cause one to find themselves in a casino bar on Christmas Eve, unsmilingly drinking away heartache or causing an isolation so painful that in a desperate desire for human contact you resort to making a spectacle of yourself?
I’d like to wrap this up in a neat bow and a deep and meaningful conclusion, but I’m not sure that there is one. It just “is”.