Today marks the 18th anniversary of the lost of my brother, who died instantaneously at age 18 with a hidden heart condition. Anyone who goes through something like this knows how it forever alters your life. It also makes your awareness heightened to people’s struggles, especially those grieving. It makes you a better person.
Death at Holiday time is such an oxymoron. It definitely compounds the sadness as external Holiday joy takes juxtaposition against your internal grief. I remember my mother having to decide which siblings she would give my brother’s wrapped gifts to - that were left under the tree - as there was nothing else left that she could do. Some gifts obviously were not a perfect matches for the recipients, but they were warmly accepted with the realization of how much my brother wanted them and how we felt they were a link to him.
I also remember my parents getting us all gifts, and getting a grave blanket for my brother because again, that was all that was left that could be done on the material side. I remember the great personal sadness I had when reflecting on this forced, only pragmatic gift.
However, with every cross there is a blessing.
I remember listening to the car radio and hearing "Oh Holy Night" between my brother’s passing and that first Christmas without him. I have heard that song a countless times and it has always been one of my favorite songs. But at that moment I truly heard for the first time the line, "’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth…" With this line the magnitude of the meaning of Christmas, with reflecting on my brothers’ soul and passing, was overwhelming realized and finally crystal clear. Without Christ’s birth and eventual accepted sacrifice, the soul had no worth, no graceful consideration or purpose, nor any final reward. No hope for happiness, basically no hope for anything. Abraham, Moses and even St. Joseph were not in a place of eternal happiness prior to Christ's victory.
So all who grieve this holiday season, take heart. The birth of a poverty-stricken baby, in a remote, outcast province of the Roman Empire two-thousand years ago changed eternity for all faithful people. This singular birth out of billions of historical births made a joyous afterlife and reward possible for all who struggle, care and mourn trying to actively live His Gospel. It was the greatest holiday gift for those in mourning by providing them THE eternal consolation.
Matthew 5:4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.