Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Musings

Good morning,

I have enjoyed the last year of musing with and for my family, friends, colleagues and the wide web of interconnectedness through Facebook and Twitter.  As you might have gleaned from last weeks Musings, this holiday holds particularly bittersweet connotations for me. I struggle with the meaning of Christmas not as a Christian holiday, but as a personal milestone, with all of its laughter, love, and longing.

 My little brother Stephen Patrick, whose middle name I borrowed for my son's first name, came into this world on 25 December 1959, and exited this world, sadly, by his own hand, in June of 1997.  Each year, Christmas marks another birthday that he will not celebrate; another German chocolate cake not baked, another gaggle of his beloved nieces and nephews that will not occur.   I have a particularly awesome son, and two fabulous stepchildren, a sweet husband, sisters by birth and by choice that immeasurably enrich my life, and in-laws, friends and co-workers who give me much personal validation and pleasure.  But the Stevie-Pat shaped hole in my universe cannot ever be filled.  I find myself alternating between tears of unending sorrow, and smiles sparked by unquenchable images of his magnificence.  I miss my mother, who died too young, and long to hear her voice.  But the fierceness with which I miss my little brother still ravages me at times, and especially, at this time.

I read about survivors of suicide and feel a kinship with the message of their furrowed foreheads and their strained smiles.  I tell myself that it is time to forget, or at least, let go.  And 360 or so days of each year, I more or less am able to do just that.  The exploits and accomplishments of my child by birth and my children by marriage distract me. And perhaps "distract" fails to convey the true import of my children to me.  My life could not have been as rich without them, nor as meaningful; nor could my home feel as bright, and joyous.   Most of the time, I don't even call my son "Stephen" very much anymore. I did that for the first year so after my brother's death, and my son seemed to understand despite his youth.  Well I remember the time I repeatedly called Patrick and his best friend Chris, then 8 and 9 years old, to the kitchen using my little brothers' names.  I did not understand why they wouldn't come. Only later did I learn that Chris had said to Patrick, "Who are Frank and Steve?" and Patrick had replied, "Oh, that's us.  You're Frank, I'm Steve."  Neither boy ever complained.

But that's mostly faded, 12 or 13 years later, 15 years after Steve's death.  I write about him once in a while.  I laugh at a particularly cute thing he did in his childhood, or a downright sassy antic of his young adulthood.  I stop, in the corridor of the courthouse sometimes, and think about his demons, his delights, and his daring.  Then I put aside the recollection, and move through the rest of my day.

At Christmas, though, I cannot do that yet. I remember his face and the sauciness of his step.  He entered snapping, calling everybody by some pet name and picking any child within reach from the floor and dancing through the room.  I see his face in his daughter's face, my niece Chelsea Rae; I see a bit of him in my son.  I think:  This year he would have been 53.  Fifty-three.  I gasp:  He has lost 14 years; and fourteen years of him has been stolen from us.

And so, this Christmas, the Christmas that my brother who "made everything Even", would have been 53, here is my wish for all of you:  That you find yourselves surrounded by those whom you cherish, and that if you have lost someone whom you cherished, your memories of them will sustain you. 

In the end, the quality of the gifts purchased carries no significance, nor the heft of the cash in your wallet, nor the richness of the food on your table.  If you have warmth, and nourishment, and clothing; and a place in which to sleep; you have enough.  If you have love, and if you are cherished, your treasures abound. 

Death deprives us of so much.  Death by murder devastates, as those who lost children in Newtown can attest.  Death by suicide leaves an awful, gnawing emptiness, overwhelming guilt, and looming, unanswerable questions. 

So:  This holiday -- whatever your holiday, whether religious or just seasonal -- find your own path to serenity.  Lift your hand, and place it upon the arm of someone in pain to ease their suffering.  Tote a meal to a 93-year-old veteran.  Turn the covers down for your spouse.  Brew tea and sit with your aging parent, or even, your not-so-aged one.  Meet your children where they dwell; see their homes, let them fix dinner for you, their dinner, served in the new style of their own traditions, putting aside your insistence on your own way of doing things.  I do not have to remind you, that this could be their last holiday among you.   Make the most of it.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.