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?