You never had much time for God. The Church had taken too much that away and so at our house Christmas was always a different affair, more of the old gods than the one newer Father. So we followed your lead – one year the tree was made of six or seven bamboo canes decorated. Another time we slept under the stars out in the bush, and in the morning the presents were arranged around a white gum. A vague memory of a fir tree when I was very little – still home in Austria – covered with lit candles as the snow hissed against the glass of our kitchen window. Or years later in Matzendorf listening to two trumpeters play Christmas music as we stood in the gently falling snow before midnight mass, and then running through the icy street behind the church to hear the way the church bell shimmered up the lane and reflected back from the hills, the beginning of mountains.
Echoes are what I feel now, that’s the wellspring of grief that will flow unchecked without a time for mourning, closure, healing. There were happy Christmases and sad ones, but since you died, what seems most important is that they happened, regardless of how I felt at the time. At a time when we are supposed to celebrate the gift of the Son, by the Father I miss you, my father. That story preceded Jesus and his family, it is the story of all true families. The arrival of the new life, the wonder of unconditional love between parent and child transcends Christians and even the pagans who set so much of our current holiday into motion. What greater gift was there than having you there, and me for you also?
I am in the growing heat of an Australian Christmas. What little remains of you sits in a wall in the icy cold of an ancient city. I could walk into the enfolding ocean and watch the creatures of weightlessness carry on their lives, or stand in tall blonde grass under the mountains of Africa, or feel the caress of the breeze by the open wounds of the earth, and you would still be there, the love you gave will flow through me like a mountain stream fed by glacier, and I can let it pour into the hearts of those around me as they unwrap gifts, eat turkey, but also tomorrow, and the next day, and all those days after that.
What a gift we were given. Thank you.