Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finding the "Happy" in the Holidays

Some years ago, at the TV station where I worked, I showed up to work to find the newsroom unusually hushed. I learned that my co-anchor had received some devastating news. His youngest daughter, while driving home the night before from her employer's holiday party, had taken a bend in the road too quickly, crashed, and died on the spot. My friend, whose family of 8 children had always brought him his greatest joy,  had already lost another daughter to cancer.

I remember the line of people at the funeral home wound so tightly upon itself it was hard to know where it began and ended. Family, friends of family, friends, friends of friends...and countless viewers who'd never met anyone in the family, but felt they "knew" this man who'd come into their living room electronically for decades - all came to offer condolences as heartfelt as they were inadequate. We shuffled slowly inside from the frigid parking lot, past collages and poster boards replete with a lifetime's worth of photos of their baby girl - a girl who would never see 30. My eye caught the photo of a laughing 10-year-old girl in a red bathing suit, wet hair plastered to her head, surrounded by her bigger siblings as they hammed it up for the camera. I thought of my own youngest daughter, safe at home. She could have been that girl.

I remember going to work the next day...the poinsettia on my friend's desk looked absurd in light of what had happened. I moved it to the far side of the newsroom. I collapsed the holiday cards that studded his desk, and set them in a pile off to one side, certain he would not want to see them when he finally came back to work. And in the days ahead, as I looked around the newsroom, embellished here and there for the holidays,  I wondered...when you've lost someone you love during the holidays, can you ever find joy in a holiday again?


  1. That was a tough year. All that chaos just a couple days before Christmas. He was amazingly stoic through it all - and when he returned to the newsroom after the holidays. He came in, put his milk and sandwich on his desk, and looked down at the package I'd left for him to track (along with a rolo - the usual bribe lol). He turned to me, as I was standing at the script desk sorting teases, and he hugged me tightly. He said 'thanks' in barely a whisper. I didn't expect it. As the days passed, I think routine and purpose helped heal him a little. And time. I know he took some enjoyment in future holiday parties - through the kid's eyes - my neices when they were small and reminded him of his kids. And the joy he knew champagne and chocolate would bring his favorite producers ;) Im sure it was never the same tho. Its hard to imagine.
    He has incredible strength. I ran into one of his grown grandkids a few weeks ago, he was doing well.

  2. Routine, purpose...and of course, time. There is wisdom in that, I think.

    And those little gestures can't hurt...like a Rolo left on your desk...that say someone's thinking about you.

    And hugs. I think maybe people who can't hug, and take strength from that, have a harder time.