Hark the Herald Angels Sing

I stopped the day’s itinerary. Had planned to do more Christmas shopping, drop off gifts, and then have nails done and eyebrows waxed. It’s my day in the city and there were so many things-to-do. Christmas on auto-pilot, like every year: gifts to send; parties to grace; and parties to throw.

But how, when just yesterday, children, barely 7, went off to school, and never went home? And today, humanity should be grieving over the loss of 12 beautiful children. And I’m lost in the thought that it could have happened to me. And if it were, what would I have done differently?

Would I have been more mindful of goodbye kisses when I took my girls to school today? Would I have gazed with more wonder at the drawing my 5 year old gave me, of that shapeless tree, me, and 4 scurrying mice? Should I have helped my 8 year old when she asked me to pick her clothes this morning? (Now I don’t even remember what she wore.) Should I have kissed them once more, given them hunkier hugs, been more wholehearted about “I love you, have fun today?” And what about the week, the months, all those years I had them, just there? There were those twinkling eyes, their hearts unbounded in their love for me and the world, and I, merely glanced, half-smiled, and was barely present for toothy smiles, their twirls and whirls, shrill songs, or the magical things they did for me.

Or what if I was that woman that died there that tragic day? I was there, and then gone? My days, my weeks, all these months, have been spent recklessly on the mundane. Time frittered away on to-do-lists, on unremarkable thoughts, on the easy and the familiar, and especially on screen time. Whatever new did I bring to the world? And what if there was only one day left, and I, silly me, had spent it alone, enjoying a manicure and wax? What if days were just as fleeting, what if?

It’s difficult not to pore over the stories, and shrug it off, go about my daily grind. I just choked up, thinking about Christmas day, when there will be presents under the tree and no one to open them. What then? The unfathomable grief, the heart wrenching pain, how do they live? How should we all live?

I’m trying to find the greater wisdom behind all the darkness and I wonder. What if angels are heralding us anew? If this meaninglessness is the harbinger like it was with the shepherds tending their sheep, or the star that foretold the birth. Only we don’t listen to the heavens, even when it opens or when angels sing, or even as hundreds of stars were falling for hours last week. Maybe this is the “Hark” of the angels singing, and we’re being knocked out of our ordinary humdrum lives.

Listen closely. And when you do, refine the day’s itinerary a bit. Give some more space for gratitude, for joy, for peace, for compassion, and love, those are the gifts of the Season. And perhaps, give more of your fleeting time for the extraordinary. You being fully alive included.

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.”

― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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