Maybe you can bring us some hope this year, Visions of sugar plums have disappeared
I’m all grown up but I’m the same you’ll see, I’m writing you this letter ’cause I still believe
Dear Santa, I’ve been good this year, Can’t you stay alittle while, with me right here?
Nobody ought to be alone on Christmas
-from the song All Alone on Christmas (1992)
Written and arranged by Steve Van Zandt
Recorded by Darlene Love with members of
the E Street Band and the Miami Horns
This song is one of my guilty pleasures. I love it. I didn’t particularly like the film Home Alone 2 (1992) in which the song is featured, but it has a killer sax solo. No, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I still like the song.
But I can’t listen to the song this year without tears welling up in my eyes (particularly embarrassing, since I’m at work as I write this). I can’t remember which news story I read it in, but I keep remembering something a reporter wrote about how some children’s Christmas presents will never be opened this year in Newtown, Connecticut because the light of those children’s lives was removed from the world last week. Because someone found it necessary to kill 26 children in Newtown, there will be parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends who will feel all alone this Christmas.
Imagine anticipating the “thumping” sound of little feet coming down the stairs before dawn on December 25th to see if Santa had brought the presents and then never hearing that sound. Imagine having wrapped each gift for your little boy or girl with care, decorating the package, and writing something loving and special on the Christmas card…but now there’s no one to rip open the wrapping paper and scatter it all over the living room in glee. As a parent, could you bear to unwrap the new toys and donate them to Toys for Tots? What would you do with them?
What would you do with “Christmas?” As a parent and a grandparent, the deaths of these 26 children tears me apart. In my imagination, I’d pull down the Christmas tree and burn it, rip all of the lights from my home and shatter them, eliminate any trace of this “festive season” from my environment, and perform the modern, moral equivalent of putting on sackcloth and ashes (whatever that might be).
But what if your small missing child has brothers and sisters? What do you say to them? How can you “celebrate” with them, or can you? Do you destroy their Christmas because of your grief? What about their grief? How can you comfort your other little ones and your spouse when pain and anguish crowd out everything else in your heart?
I’m normally pretty neutral about Christmas these days but this year, I hate it. I hate all of the expectations people have for “the season to be jolly.” In retrospect, I probably should always have hated it. Who is happy and cheerful now? Doesn’t every home know death? Don’t thousands of children die all over the world every day? Aren’t their tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of hearts in the world right now who feel alone and empty for so many reasons? This “season” tells you that you must be happy and joyful and festive.
Eat heaping plates of turkey or ham on Christmas this year if you so choose. I’ll be dining on ashes.
No, that’s too cruel.
I don’t celebrate Christmas but maybe you do. Maybe you have many reasons to be happy and grateful (I’m grateful that my family is alive and safe this year). I have no right to take that away from you. I have no right to believe that the victims and mourners in Newtown haven’t come together to comfort and console each other. I have no right to believe that anyone will be alone this Christmas in Newtown, though I know without a single doubt that there will be an emptiness in each of those homes.
Today, we observed a moment of silence for the victims. Also, bells tolled 26 times, once for each child who died. On Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas, I don’t want to take away from your joy, but in the midst of your joy, take a moment, or two, or twenty-six, or twenty-eight.
And remember them.
Charlotte Bacon, age 6, Daniel Barden, age 7, Rachel D’Avino, age 29, Olivia Engel, age 6, Josephine Gay, age 7, Dylan Hockley, age 6, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, age 47, Madeleine Hsu, age 6, Catherine Hubbard, age 6, Chase Kowalski, age 7, Jesse Lewis, age 6, Ana Marquez-Greene, age 6, James Mattioli, age 6, Grace McDonnell, age 7, Anne Marie Murphy, age 52, Emilie Parker, age 6, Jack Pinto, age 6, Noah Pozner, age 6, Caroline Previdi, age 6, Jessica Rekos, age 6, Lauren Rousseau, age 30, Mary Sherlach, age 56, Victoria Soto, age 27, Benjamin Wheeler, age 6, Allison Wyatt, age 6.
You can find out more about each of them at wptv.com.
Not everyone on that list celebrated Christmas but that’s not really the point. The point is that each of them had the right to live. The point is that each of them was someone’s son or daughter and that each one of them was loved. The point is that there are people left behind to grieve and to mourn and to cry. And the point is that, in spite of all the multi-colored lights that sparkle on homes and businesses and trees right now, the little more darkness has entered our world and a little more light has been taken away from each of us.
And nobody ought to be alone.