The Sadness of a Winter’s Night (ms)

It seems to me that the saddest days of the year come during winter. It’s dark early, often cloudy so there is no moon or starlight to brighten things up even a little bit. Such was the kind of night I drove into a few days ago. On nights like that, one best not take back roads for they can be hazardous but I knew my way and had confidence. I made fair time all the while passing homes near the road then long spaces where there was nothing but trees and cold and frozen snow. Off in the distance there were more lighted dots marking homes here and there. Those lights always look colder maybe because they are so alone, so far removed from any contact though behind them often lies a warm home, laughter, good food.

My business was as dark as the night around me. I was going to a memorial service for a long-time family friend and that is never good business. Still, I thought, she passed on in her nineties and was healthy up to the last minute. She died surrounded by family knowing she was loved, her company enjoyed, her smiles and laughter welcomed not endured. Given the alternatives I thought that not a bad thing.

Still, my ride was one of reflection on her, the times we talked which are always too few in hindsight. She was a nice lady who thought the world of her family, who had seen countless problems, her share of tragedy. In short she was like so many others who simply go about their lives doing what they do, unsung heroes in the frequent battles life throws our way.

I said what I could to the next of kin but those words are never enough. It’s hard to sum up a life in eloquent terms when there are so many facets that need exploring, need to have their proper due. We all do what we can at such times, fumbling for what we hope will be the right thing but never knowing for sure.

My friend did not want a formal service but her family thought this little ceremony, this small gathering was appropriate and I did too. It brought us all together and goodness knows that doesn’t happen very often. Some of my family was there and we recalled we hadn’t seen each other since the last wake or was it a wedding? Things tend to blend together. We had the chance to tell some stories about times past; they did the talking and I listened mostly for their stories were better than anything I could offer. They were often funny stories that had us all laughing and crying at the same time. We left for our long rides home through the darkness in a much better mood than when we came.

A wake, a memorial, a service is as much for the living as for the dead. We need to be eased along out of moments of grief to the hours of life left to be lived. It makes the sadness of a winter night a bit easier to take.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on February 5, 2011.

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