What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
TS Eliot, Burnt Norton
I’ve said it before, I hate Christmas. Christians celebrate the birth of a child and all I see is death: a child born to die horribly, painfully, alone. For what? For those who spat on him, jeered as he bled, chose a murderer over the one who had only showed kindness and offered healing. Hope. He gave them hope and they killed him.
The Magi brought funeral incense to a child. We’re all born to die, lest we forget ourselves. Life is short, brutal, and filled with loss. We tell ourselves that we have “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” to make things right, to find love, to live the life we’ve imagined for ourselves. But the end comes, always unexpectedly, and our brief, empty lives flare out against a cold, uncaring cosmos, and are extinguished.
We don’t come back.
We don’t have a happy ending.
We just end.
And love doesn’t find us. Purpose is fleeting and always unfulfilled. We just end. Hope amounts to nothing.
What might have been and what has been points to one end, which is always present. Yet we live for tomorrow, when the only time is now, at the still point of the turning world.
I live for Easter. Those moments in the Garden that lead to the culmination of a life forfeited to end death. Whether you believe is immaterial; the beauty of that purpose is redeeming. Hope, burning bright in the darkness. Someday there may be love that gives, rather than takes. Love that doesn’t leave us stranded and broken. Love that sees us, sees the value within, offering peace.
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
TS Eliot, Burnt Norton
Everyone has lost everything at one point, or they will. No breaking point is the same, and there is no hierarchy of loss. My loss is not more or less than yours. My hurt is no different from the hurt that burns within you.
Christmas points to Easter, when the light at the end of the tunnel consumed the deep darkness. Hope, however foolish, carries us as we run toward a future we will almost certainly never experience. Finding the balance between tomorrow and today is the point of living.
The leaves are filled with children but the pool is empty. If you are fortunate enough to find a home as time and inertia carry you forward, rest there. Embrace it while you can. The end is often a heartbeat away, between one breath and the next.
Live for the moments in between heartaches, and embrace those things and people who make you feel most alive.
That may be all we have or it may be the first step of a longer journey, but we should make this count.