Trigger Warning: I’m gonna talk today about grief, AGAIN. But also joy. So if that particular cocktail of the human condition is not what you need just now, come back another day! You have my blessing.
Today is a difficult anniversary. It’s one year since my older brother died, and the whirlwind of suffering that marked the last few years of his life spun out into the universe, leaving those who love him to make meaning of his passing, each in our way.
It’s oddly fitting that he died during Advent, my favorite liturgical season on the Anglican calendar: Advent is about hope. It celebrates the surety of light, with full acknowledgement that this moment is bone-achingly damp-cold and pitilessly dark, each day shorter, the sun shyer, more elusive. What else is faith but an unwavering, irrational assertion that hope lives and light shines even in the darkest circumstance? It’s the Hanukkah story, too— I’ve always loved the confluence of traditions, defying our immature, human insistence that our own narrative, Christian or Jew, Hindu, Muslim (or atheist), has an exclusive lock on truth. Because there is only one truth, and that is Love, and every tradition proclaims it. None of us owns it. It would be so productive if our species could stop bickering about whose version of Love is superior.
I asked my husband and kids to grant me some space today, because I wanted to mark this anniversary intentionally, although I couldn’t articulate quite how and had no concrete plan other than to begin the day in meditation and see where it flowed from there. Vaguely, I thought I would dance, I would listen to music, I would look at my journal from the last year and maybe pick a poem to edit, I’d spend some time outside in Nature, I would pray for my parents, my brothers and their wives, my nieces and nephews and their children, and other friends who adored my older brother. So when I remembered my friend Robyn’s Nia class at 10, just after slurping down my coffee and closing my browser from a last-minute bout of Christmas shopping, I scampered out of my jammies and into workout clothes.
As Robyn’s music began, a shiver of recognition: I, too, teach this playlist “Ocean Drive,” with music by a 90’s pop duo I’d been unfamiliar with, “Lighthouse Family.” The very first song is possibly the most perfect lyric imaginable for a fraught anniversary in this season calling us each to embrace our version of faith—in love, or justice, in creativity, or beauty, whatever is Divine for you—when darkness gathers round. So rather than spend all day wrestling with a blank page, I think I will let their music hold the space for me instead, for all of us, who KNOW there is light on even the blackest night, and soldier on, some joyfully, some doggedly, some out of habit, some out of a deep impulse we cannot name. Like the sun in the night, we burn bright, we choose joy, we love, we live.
How many times in your life have you ever had the feeling
That the way you live is crazy and there must be something else
When you look at the sky does it ever cross your mind
There could be something you’ve forgotten that won’t ever go away
Like the sun in the night
Like the sun in the night
You’ll always be with me baby, be in my soul
You’ll always be with me, wherever I go
“Sun in the Night” is followed by my favorite song in the playlist, one that always unlocks my heart. It’s called “Lifted,” and features a rousing chorus complete with Gospel back-up singers. I danced to this song countless times over the last year as I processed the weight of grief, the stress of lockdown, the weirdness of this political moment, and the most profound gratitude for the well-being of my family, for my home, my safety, my health, my friends, healthcare professionals, delivery people, grocery store workers, anyone who wears a mask for the good of others even though it’s a pain in the ass and none of us likes it, non-partisan election officials of any political party, the birds, the sky, the earth:
I’d really love to be alone without all the
Ache and pain and the April showers
But it ain’t long before I long for you, like a
Ray of hope, coming through the blue moon
When it all gets dark again
The whole thing falls apart I guess
It doesn’t really matter ’bout the rain
‘Cause we’ll get through it anyway
We’ll get up and start again
‘Cause we could be lifted, lifted, lifted
We could be Lifted
From the shadows, lifted
Oh we could be, lifted up today
Lifted all the way, you and I forever
Baby, lifted, lifted, lifted, hey
Click play and dance! And may your spirits be lifted this holiday season.