Tears rolled down my cheeks faster than I could catch them. I believe that was the first time this happened for me at a stage play. I didn’t realize the musical production of Scrooge during the recent holidays would invoke my grief. I wasn’t the only one. I noted that the woman in front of me wiped her eyes as did the woman two seats to my left. Oh good, it wasn’t just me.
What might have been unique to me in this particular setting is that my tears just kept coming, beyond the scene that provoked them. I was unaware that the river behind my eyes was ready to flood its banks. I was unprepared for it to happen while I sat in darkness amongst a crowd of people in the brand new Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College.
I have that multi-talented cast to thank for allowing me to pretend that the ghost of Christmas past was real. And that Scrooge himself was real; indeed he walks among and through us at times. The scene was so well delivered that Scrooge’s grief at not having taken the opportunity to properly have, love, and hold his sister and later his fiancé seemed plausible. So much so, it cracked open my own heart and tapped into all the times I too didn’t take the opportunity to love someone enough. Or maybe I did love them fully, but their time came to pass on from this life. And the grief of these experiences, all rolled up into one lazy river now, spilled the banks.
I’m sure what made part of this so significant was it tied to the sorrow I’ve tried to get beyond since the loss of my special friend Carmela six months ago. Oh, how I tried to say, “This is life, Christina. The older you get, the more people you will see die. We must just move along now, and let her go.” But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.
For some reason I believe I’ve had my fair share of losses in my lifetime and then some. Do all of you feel this way? Maybe we all do. It seems to have been a constant in my life. Some of the losses happened suddenly – my college roommate dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in our house. I was so young then and it was such a tremendous shock, and I didn’t get to properly say goodbye. Some of the losses happened slowly. In that same year, my best college friend died of cancer. I learned early on the practice of letting go, and to try to make some sense out of the fact that even the young ones can leave us when their lives have barely begun.
Even though I’m older now and think I’ve got a pretty good handle on this loss stuff, I discovered these past few months I’m still just a basic human being who has to grieve it on out just like everyone else, every time. Does it get easier? I think it does, and has. I don’t seem to be so surprised or shocked anymore by death. But the grieving process is still hard and takes its own sweet time. It doesn’t let me push it around or rush it along. No, it’s got its own ideas and won’t be managed by someone like me who doesn’t want to feel those feelings.
And so this is what occurred for me at the very end of 2009 as I sat at a lovely, perfectly conducted musical. I was reminded that we are the same in our hearts, even Scrooge and all those we know who possess some of his hard-hearted traits. Maybe it’s just the degree of how deeply we choose to feel what is in our hearts that makes us seem different to one another.
I’m certainly not in a position to critique another person for being what we might call “cold-hearted” toward another person. I think none of us want to feel that deep, cutting pain that comes with a personal loss. I can see the reasoning behind hardening a heart to avoid that pain. But if we do, what of life do we miss that might be extraordinary? The death of my friend Carmela last June has made me grateful for every moment of the 20 years I knew her that I loved her with an open heart. My soul friend and mentor, though I grieve now and have a river running just behind my eyes waiting to spill its banks at any unpredictable moment, I’d do it again. In fact, yes, if given the opportunity, I will.