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Christmas comfort for grieving families

December has rolled around once again. As the air gains a wintry chill, we are reminiscing on Christmas traditions and preparing for a holiday season that will undoubtedly look and feel a little different.

For many families, including mine, Christmas will be bittersweet this year. While everyone reading this has survived the curveballs of 2020, so many of our loved ones have not.

My grandmother, Betty Cuti, won’t be sitting on the living room sofa unwrapping presents this year. She passed away November 14 from congestive heart failure, and while the loss is devastating, I’m grateful to have spent so many years with her.

I want to write a full tribute to her and our favorite memories together when the time is right. For now, the pain is still a little too sharp, and there are memories I would rather keep close to my heart. It’s not an easy task to summarize a life so pure. She was a little lady with a momentous heart and endless love for her family.

Absence is, by definition, a “nonexistence,” a “lack of” or a state of being “away.” But absence screams loud. It fills the room and worms its way into our emotions.

Are our deceased loved ones really absent at all? Twenty-four hours after my grandmother’s passing, I cried because I would never see her again. My husband assured me that I would, not physically, but in spirit. At the very moment those words escaped his lips, our dog perked up from his sleep and barked at a seemingly empty space in the room. It might not mean much, but to me it was a small reassurance.

I’m sharing a poem I found the day before my grandmother’s funeral in hopes that it can provide another family some comfort this Christmas season.

 

Death Is Nothing At All

BY HENRY SCOTT-HOLLAND

 

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Brooke Robichaux Cantrelle is news editor at L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at brooke.robichaux@lobservateur.com.