As we approach the end of the year I am always struck by the amount of people facing their first Christmas without someone that they love. The idea that Christmas is a happy time full of good cheer is partly true but not for everyone. This year is profound for me as three figures from my past have all recently died.
Patrick Moore, the epitome of eccentric Britishness, affected my childhood with his ‘The Sky at NIght’ programme. Patrick had the ability to make a subject that could be dry and complex accessible to people like me. The wonder of astrology was opened to my young mind and was in many ways one of the corner stones of my interest in science and then psychology. As I sit and remember Patrick I wonder if the age of the true eccentric is now passed.
Then Kenneth Kendall, another face of Britishness, news reader and presenter, appeared throughout my childhood as the face of the BBC establishment, with that wonderful BBC accent that became the worldwide news standard. I smile as I remember his time on the TV programme ‘Treasure hunt’ with Anneka Rice and cameras chasing her bottom up stairways and onto helicopters.
Yet the most profound loss for me at this time is Ravi Shankar brilliant sitarist, wonderful man and inspirational soul. He is the father of two beautiful daughters who have both gone onto musical fame, Anoushka Shankar and Nora Jones. I studied sitar at Dartington Hall School of Music and Bharata Vidhya Bhavan and Ravi were a constant inspiration to me. Thank you Ravi.
When we consider our attitude to such losses, however close, we have the choice of mourning a death or celebrating a life. Perhaps we need to do both. With celebrities the write ups will be of celebration and we can forget the loss felt by those closest to them.
I have a suggestion for you if you are facing a Christmas without someone. Lay a place for them at the Christmas table, just as if they were there, and before the meal let everyone at the table raise a glass to the empty chair and share a positive memory of gratitude and thanks… ‘Dear…. I want to thank you for…’
Together we maintain the newness of life and experience, just as together we share the loss of endings. In our world death is as natural as birth just as spring will always follow winter. In the rhythm of life all that matters, in the end is the love that we have for each other, for those that have been, those that are and, those that are yet to come.
A Poem dedicated in memory of Eve & Bob Place.
They have gone
You can shed tears that they have gone,
Or you can smile because they lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that they will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that they have left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember them and only that they have gone
Or you can cherish their memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what they would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on
Whatever you are facing this Christmas, live in the present and be happy