Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a postal service between heaven and earth? Or between the hereafter and earth, whatever the hereafter entails.
I know that everything is digital nowadays, and ‘digital’ is all the younger generation has known. But nonetheless, just imagine this scene.
It’s Christmastime. You’re feeling nostalgic, and your thoughts are wandering down the gentle contours of Memory Lane. You’re reflecting on family and friends who can’t be with you anymore. But you’re remembering, all the same.
So you go downstairs one sleepy December morning, still clad in slippers and pyjamas, and you see an enticing white envelope lying on the carpet in the hallway by the front door, addressed to you in a familiar handwriting. Or, if you live in an apartment, you unlock your allocated letterbox on your way to work or the shops, and see the envelope.
So you open it. And this is what it might say.
I couldn’t let this time of year go past without a wave from my island to yours. I do so wish we could be together now, as we used to be – writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents and listening to carols, do you remember? But they don’t have any cheap flights to Earth from here, and neither do they pay us a pension, so I’m afraid I can’t afford to catch a plane to your part of the universe. No one here can afford it – that’s why all of you down there never see any of us up here. So I’m sorry, sweetheart, you’ll just have to accept this Christmas letter instead. But know that I’m thinking of you, now and always, and looking forward to the day when you’ll be sent up here on the free express train from Earth, and we can be together again. From your ever-loving Mother.
Or it might say this.
Do you remember how you used to ask me about my childhood in Poland? And how I told you that there was always a houseful of guests, and a full table on Christmas Eve, always with one extra place for the unexpected guest who might turn up at the last minute? Well, kochana, up here in the Big Hereafter we also have a lavishly laid table amidst the goose-feather clouds and unisex angels. And I want you to know that the extra place I asked them to lay beside me is reserved especially for you – for when you join me here, sometime in the future, and get sleepy on the ambrosial wine, and decide that this deluxe neighbourhood is as good a place as any to remain forever. That will be a happy day for me! Ściskam Cię, Tata (hugging you, Dad).
Or it might even say this.
I know it’s hard for you to read this, because I was never born – at least not as a living baby. You never knew me, but I knew you. I knew the softness of your warm, cosy womb, and I knew the hypnotic rhythm of your heartbeat that never failed to put me to sleep, and I knew the sound of your alto voice and your laughter – oh, how I loved that laughter! How I longed to hear it for REAL one of these days, outside the womb, in the real world where you dwelt and where I should have dwelt … But anyway, it’s Christmastime and I don’t want to be sad. I just want to say thank you for harbouring me within you for those few wonderful months. Happy Christmas! Loving wishes from your miscarried child.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive a letter from another realm, another dimension – a letter from someone who has been taken from us without our consent, and who would dearly love to be with us, if only they could. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that kind of postal connection with people you will never see again in this world?
But of course that’s not what this time of year is all about. It’s about the very opposite: birth and hope and love; not death and memories and yearning for what can never be.
But what can never be is in itself the stuff that dreams are made of. Our lives are founded upon a bedrock of implausible yet alluring tales: Hans Christian Anderson, ancient mythology, the Bible, the Torah … and all we can do is try to catch the magic of the stories, like falling stars … try to breathe in their specious promise, knowing that as soon as we re-open our eyelids, they will be gone. Just like the falling stars.
On my first honeymoon, Ex-Hubby and I camped in an open field under the stars. And I do mean literally under the stars. There were millions of them. It was one of those rare, pitch-clear nights when the heavens are alight with a treasury of extraterrestrial diamonds that are beyond our reach and yet so near. That night, my new spouse and I counted thirteen shooting stars altogether, and duly wished upon each one of them. And as the fiery asteroids whisked past, I longed to catch them, to keep their transcendental magic within me forever. But of course I didn’t succeed.
Falling stars, just like letters dropped from heaven. Landing on your doorstep instead of in the hills or the valleys. Hurtling past and expiring, like a dream from which you have just awoken and yearn to dive straight back into, yet the more you strive to retain the essence of it, the more it fades. There one moment, gone the next. Like Christmas. Like snowflakes. Like a candle flame. Like our lives. After all, we are all travellers passing through this earth, as our forefathers were.
So while we’re still here, at Christmastime or any other time of year, we should remember the words of that ancient psalm and make the most of our allotted time on Earth, before we finally evaporate into stardust.