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Photo by Tibor Fazakas

Bless us, any god who crabs the apples
and seeds the leaf and needle evergreen. 

– From “Lines for Winter” by Dave Lucas

When I wrote about a challenging Advent season, I had the sense of waiting in the dark with difficult questions and wondering about the value of incarnation, of being present in this time and place. This challenging season extended into the New Year when a good friend lost her much loved father, Tony, very unexpectedly, a few days into 2013.

At the funeral Saturday, the church was still decorated for Christmas, and from my seat I could see the evergreen trees in the background, behind the priest as he conducted Mass. I remembered something the Nurse said during one of our Advent discussions several years ago, that our ancestors used to cut down these trees and drag them inside for the worst of winter, the shortest days and longest nights of the year, just to remind themselves that not everything has died.

Culture and technology now prevent us from feeling the worst of winter, the deepest effects of that darkness and the primordial fears it brings. But nothing separates us from deep and powerful darkness when a loved one dies. It shakes the ground and eclipses the light. I sat in the church looking at those trees and feeling deeply for my dear friend who was experiencing that darkening in the moment.

I listened as the priest and my friend’s husband described Tony as generous, something I and so many others have long admired about his daughter, who is among the most generous people I have ever been blessed to have in my life. I learned also that Tony owned a tavern, which people remembered as a place of connection and fun. His daughter, a therapist, owns a space where countless people have found peace and healing, and where many groups have met to share stories, laughter and friendship.

There are things, I thought, that do not die.

To the practices of faith and listening to children, I silently added, inviting what is still green and living and beautiful into the waiting darkness.