Brooklyn is aglow with Christmas lights. Susanna’s tree in front of our house twinkles and fades in diminutive pink dots. On our way home last night, more than one time, I caught sight of light displays flashing the word “Joy”. Joy is not the absence of pain. I am probably too old and seasoned to fake joy anymore, but I have undoubtedly known more joy than many.
At some point in adulthood, I began to see my life more often in retrospect. There is less plotting and more reflection. I like to get lost in Christmas. The jingling bells and strings of lights, the smells of cinnamon and pine and pie crust, the archaic tunes from past decades and even centuries, provide extra permission to drift. I am fulfilling responsibilities and doing chores but my mind and soul visit places I have been. Places where joy has lived. I see myself on rewind coming to New York and going to art school. In some ways, art school can destroy your life. It can induce such joy and satisfaction that the rest of your days can seem downhill from there. I see myself as a little kid at Christmastime, surrounded by relatives and family friends who have gotten old, or died, or both. Super 8 film and projectors, reel to reel tape recorders and Polaroid cameras could not save this from happening. I see myself as a young person who loved parties, laughing with people I used to know and no longer can locate or even clearly remember. I see myself pregnant and feeling the flutter of babies moving inside of me (the most terrifying type of joy and hope of all).
Most importantly, I can mentally revisit some places I have been while suffering from one thing or another. Remembering them brings me peace because I understand more. “Healed”. There is no more beautiful or important word than “healed”. I have healed.
Have I healed from losing my beautiful Susanna? Hardly at all. There is a gaping hole in my line of vision. I still see my son through one eye as the brave, burgeoning young man I am blessed to spend my life with, but through the other eye as half of a photo ripped mercilessly in two. This situation still feels abysmal sometimes. It still really, really hurts. Everything I do, I do while wanting Susanna to be here. Yet, this year I continue to know beyond doubt that I believe in hope, I believe in healing, and I believe there is a bigger picture and that picture is awesome. Sometimes I get a glimpse and a glimpse is all I need.
It is Christmas, 2010. We are decorating an artificial tree in our house amidst remodeling. The tree is on top of a dining room table, since we have a three year old and an almost two year old. Susanna is wearing a red velour dress with buttons. She looks up to the treetop angel and says this: “I love you, angel. Are you up in the sky?” She says this to the angel, not to us.
And I know that some people come to earth and do not stay for long, because they are perfect already. The rest of us have things to do yet, and here we are. Peace.