Tag Archives: Strong Memorial Hospital

Healing from Loss on the Longest Day of the year

early photo of Marika Warden with angel wings taken by Robin botie of Ithaca, New York at the old Michigan Wymyn's Music FestivalThree years ago in December, I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, a few blocks from Strong Memorial Hospital where my daughter was preparing for her stem cell transplant. At the time there was only one family and very few staff there; everyone else had gone home for the holidays. When a small troupe of musicians showed up one night, the volunteer in the office begged me to join the tiny audience in the living room. I did, although I was not in the mood for Christmas carols. Marika had sung in caroling groups and now she was stuck in the hospital with leukemia. It didn’t seem right that I should be serenaded in that beautiful living room, next to a huge lit-up tree.
The musicians outnumbered the audience. I sat before them in a rocking chair and tried to smile. It was fine for the first couple of songs. But when they started “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” something inside me cracked. I tried to hide my tears. I did not want to be hugged by the volunteer or anyone. By the time they got around to “Silent Night” I was completely broken.
My reaction surprised and confused me. Marika was still alive and there was so much hope. We were moving forward. We were on the upside. Why was I miserable? I had no idea then that in less than three months our world would crash.

On the longest night of the year, three years later, I went to the Gifts of the Winter Solstice concert at Ithaca’s Hospicare. The large living room was packed. There were only a few familiar faces in the crowd as I wormed my way to a seat in the back.
It was supposed to be a celebration of the winter solstice so I did not expect Christmas carols. Three notes into the introduction of “Silent Night” my heart catapulted into my stomach. I glanced around wildly to make a quick exit but there was no way out of the crammed room. I was stuck.
The lights blurred through my tears. But halfway into the song I knew I would be all right. The lyrics were about heavenly peace and redeeming grace, brightness and calm. It suddenly became a lullaby and I let it settle me.

In the past three years, peace has grown within me. The pain of my daughter’s death sits more gently on my heart now. After the concert I lingered a short while to have cookies and a few words with friends from my old grief group. And later, in the rain, walking my dog before bed, I sang “Silent Night” to the invisible moon. I sang to my angel on the other side of the moon, on the darkest longest night of the year.

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