Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas to All -- Pagans and Christians alike

--and Happy Hannukah, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa.

An exploration of our Deep Winter Commemoration

As a nation with short-term memory, eager for the "next thing," it is no wonder we have no sense of history or a sense of the context in which our current traditions were established. The current Christmas tradition is a good example where we seem to have lost our sense of tradition, history, and the concept of "majority rules."

First off, let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, did not establish the "Christmas season." It had already been in full-swing for a millennia or more before his time, in the form of the Winter Solstice commemorations of the "old Religion" of Mythraism (et al). Once Saint Paul proactively altered the basic Jewish dietary practices, and made things a bit easier for "new converts," Christianity took root as a distinct sect, apart from its Jewish roots. Whereas Jews called everyone else heathen (those who lived on the heath, or common) or goy, the New Religion of Christianity called everyone else "pagans."

Let’s stop a minute and examine that now-derogatory term. The Pagani were originally country folk, those who lived outside the grasp of Roman power. The term had no religious overtones. But gradually, those who chose to cling to their old traditions were then called "the pagans," meaning anyone else but us. It was no different than Muslims looking down their noses at non-Muslims, the so-called "infidels."

By the time the Fourth Century rolled around, the new Christian Church was also the dominant political power. Church and State were one and the same. And a savvy leader – Constantine – realized that while it was easy to declare Christianity the "official religion," it was less simple to change the hearts and minds of the people. So what did he do? He stole Christmas fair and square from the pagans. He "Christianized" all of the Old Religion Holy Days, and declared that they were now Christian, with new names in some cases. This is why the Druid Feast of Samhain became All Hallows Eve, and the ancient Ishtar became Easter, and why we have the odd St. Valentines day traditions, a throwback to Roman time. And the ancient Winter Solstice commemorations morphed into The Mass of Christ (Christ-Mass).

Most of the basic symbols of the modern Christmas season pre-date Jesus: the wreath, the mistletoe, the evergreens, gift exchanges, cards, the decorated tree.

Astronomers and historians know with certainty that Jesus was NOT born on or near the Winter Solstice due to the clues given in the New Testament. For example, animals are not in the fields in late December, and there was no comet or conjunction of planets that coincided with that time of the year, and the census that caused Mary and Joseph to travel did not occur in late December, etc.

Santa Claus is a latter-day addition, from an actual bishop in the church, Nicholas of Asia Minor who gave gifts to needy families around the already-established Christmas season. Known as Saint Nicholas, his name is rendered into something that sounds like "Santa Claus" when translated into other languages.

So, all this said, why are we afraid to say "Merry Christmas"? We stole the Holy Day fair and square from the Pagans, who are still free to commemorate Winter Solstice. There is no conflict, and there is no real issue in terms of State-sponsored religion.

Atheists and sue-happy litigants should attend to their own matters, and keep their long noses out of the business of others that does not in any imaginable way "hurt" them. How do the "stolen from pagans Christmas commemorations" in ANY way hurt or harm atheists, or others of different religions? If Christianity, in whatever form, is the will of the majority of the people, how is that harmful?

No one in the broader society, after all, objects if Japanese celebrate Obon widely in their own communities, or when Muslims commemorate Ramadan as they see fit, or when Jews commemorate Hannukah, Yom Kippur, or any of the other well-established Holy Days. Nor is there any objection as those of African descent celebrate the "new" secular holiday of Kwanzaa.

The Christmas holiday is unique and special for millions of people. It is the time of least light, when our minds and bodies and emotions yearn for "the light." It does not really matter that Jesus was not born on Christmas day if that is the day millions of Christians choose to commemorate it. What matters is that we use the symbols of these days to remind ourselves of our spiritual heritage – something ALL people share. We are ALL, after all, descendants from the same Spiritual Father and Spiritual Mother.

This should be an uplifting time for all, when we joyously and sincerely embrace others, and wish them a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a wonderful Winter Solstice, the best Kwanzaa, and a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


[This is part of a book about growing up in Pasadena]

A few years later when I was perhaps 10, my brothers and I were particularly bad and misbehaving and belligerent one autumn. My mother gave us several warning and threats and a few "beatings" in her ceaseless attempt to get us to obey. But I don’t know what was wrong with us that year. It was as if we were afflicted by some unseen infection. Or maybe it was what all teens go through when they believe they know more than their parents. So my mother said,

"Keep it up and there will be no Christmas this year." Of course, my mother didn’t control the calendar. She just meant "no gifts." That threat did at first affect our behavior, but then we’d go back to our nonfeasant and malfeasant ways. There were numerous threats, as November rolled into December, but things didn’t substantially improve.

Now, I was at the age where I began to think about things, and the relative unfairness in the world, and the questioning of authority. But I also wondered why we should receive gifts at Christmas. By this time, I was aware that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time, and that it was primarily a religious holiday. I just didn’t get the whole gift thing –not that I minded receiving. But because I lacked an understanding of the whole picture, the idea of "no gifts" didn’t seem that threatening to me.

Thinking back, our bad behaviour that year was likely the trickle-down defiance from our oldest brother. David was never a defier, certainly not an open defier, but the defiance of Gilbert the eldest would have trickled down to Thomas, to Richard, to me. We were not an ideal family, and I am sure I have suffered my entire life due to unnecessary defiance and the disrespect that I showed to my parents. Did my parents deserve respect? In retrospect, of course they did, though the question would have been irrelevant then – like the pot calling the kettle black.

We were not saints, so who were we to point out hypocrisy in our parents? Anyway, by mid-December, the word was out: No Christmas this year. We were schizophrenic about this. "Oh, we don’t care," we sassed, but inwardly I believe we each felt a deep dismay at our own inability to live up to our household’s very simple standards. I felt particularly dismayed that I had been no better, and that I was swayed along with the tide of my older brothers’ mob mentality. No Christmas. "She won’t follow through on it," Tom told us with assurance. But inwardly, I felt my mother had to follow through, otherwise her word would mean little to us, and she’d gain little by "being nice." I don’t recall what my father had to say about this, but it wasn’t much.

So, sure enough, Christmas came, and we went glumly into the living room to a fire and the usual Christmas tree, but there were no gifts. We went to church and we talked with our schoolmates. When they talked about what they got for Christmas, we just found ways to change the subject. We had a quiet Christmas dinner.

One of my brothers told his friends that my mother was mean, but I never did that. I knew we deserved nothing, and I felt a certain euphoric sense of justice in her actions, and I respected her more because of it.

Interestingly, in certain ways, I felt closer to my mother after that, was more obedient because I simply felt better doing what was expected of me, and I never complained. Despite a seeming lack, it was actually one of the best Christmas’ ever, where I received the most fitting possible "gift" – the ability to quickly experience that my choices and actions have consequences.

The story about my mean mother gradually got out into the neighborhood, and my mother once again became the topic of conversations, mostly criticizing my mother. I always remained silent, trying to listen to both sides. But I only heard one side—no gifts – from those who truly lost the meaning of Christmas, whose sole focus for Christmas seemed to be the acquisition of things. So I slowly was given a second "gift" by my mother’s action – a unique insight into the all-too-common mundanity of most people’s very narrow thinking.


[This is a short selection from a book I am working on about growing up in Pasadena]

Christmas was always a special time, though in my very earliest memories, there were no religious overtones. I was taken to church every Sunday, of course, but the Christmas decorations and gatherings were all something that happened at home, not at church. When I was too young to speak, I realized that Christmas was the season that happened during the coldest time of the year, and it meant that we’d have a fire going in the fireplace, people would be coming over, and there’d be lots of gifts and food.

My earliest specific memory was when I was told that Santa Claus could come to our home and bring gifts, and that he had some way to figure out where I lived. I didn’t know exactly why, but there was a great mystery about this fat, bearded, red-suited Santa man. People spoke about him in hushed tones, and would even sometimes stop talking about him when I came near.

My brother Tom told me that Santa Claus would come down the chimney – something I found hard to believe considering how fat he appeared in the pictures. We both peered up into our fireplace one day and wondered how Santa could get through the narrow passageway.
"Plus, doesn’t dad have a screen over the top of the chimney to keep the pigeons out?" Tom asked. I didn’t know. "I hope he remembers to remove it for Santa."

On Christmas Eve, our dad showed us a plate of cookies and a pot of coffee that had been set out for Santa.

We barely slept, and I tried to not sleep so I could be the first to rush out and catch a glimpse of this Santa. But I fell asleep, and Tom woke me and Rick. We jumped out of bed, and ran down the hall. We weren’t particularly interested in gifts, but we wanted to catch Santa. We were too late, but the three of us carefully examined the remaining evidence. There were no cookies left on the plate – only crumbs – and there was only a small amount of coffee left in the cup. Tom held the cup and carefully peered into it, and then Rick and I stared into the cup, the proof that Santa had come and departed.

"See?" said Tom. We all continued to stare into the cup a while longer, as if it might reveal some secrets to us.

In a few more years, I noticed that people didn’t fully hide their comments from me when speaking about Santa Claus. "He believes in Santa Claus?" was met with muffled response. What an odd question, I thought. Why shouldn’t I believe in Santa Claus?

When I actually learned about this mythical aspect of Christmas, I did go through a period of confusion and even anger at the world of make-believe perpetrated entirely by adults and foisted upon me. I suppose I felt bad because I really wanted to believe in Santa Claus, and I felt that he was a positive figure. And I had been told to "be good" for Santa Claus, and that Santa Claus knew everything I was doing. I was very puzzled by all this, but I got over it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


[Note: This is part of a book Christopher is working on about his lessons and experiences with Dolores' death, and how they both dealt with issues of death during their marriage.]

As Dolores wished, her body was cremated. In about three weeks after her death, a brown box was delivered to me which contained her ashes. It was heavier than I expected. We received it too late for the Memorial we held in the back yard a week and a half after she died, otherwise we might have planted a tree that day.

The search was on to find the ideal tree to plant over Dolores’ ashes. The first choice was breadfruit, a Hawaiian tree, in honor of Dolores’ love of things Hawaiian, and her feeling of a connection to those islands, and the memory of her having lived there. But there was no breadfruit to be found. If anyone would have a breadfruit tree, I figured Steven Spangler of Exotica would have it, but he told me that the tree would not grow here unless in a greenhouse. That wouldn’t do.

So then I tried to find a terebinth tree, rich in symbolism and seemingly ideal to memorialize Dolores. But could not find one. I was told by a botanist at the Huntington Garden that there weren’t any of these trees in North America. I sought a certain species of fragrant lilac, a certain variety of deodar, and other trees. Each of these inquiries took time, and it was clear that we should not wait too long for such a memorial.

We had felt the presence of Dolores very strong through December and early January, but she seemed further afield now in that different sort of work that someone must be engaged in once their body dies. So I decided to plant Meyer lemons, a tree that Dolores enjoyed because not only did it provide food, but also fragrance and medicine, and it was drought-tolerant.

Finally, we planned the event for Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 3 p.m. Alvin Toma provided the two Meyer lemons – we planned to plant two trees, symbolic of all things two, like frontal column and spinal column, like Boaz and Joachim. We planned the trees so that Dolores’ trees would watch over and overlook where her dogs were buried.

On Saturday, Talal and I spent an hour finding the just-right spots for the trees. Where I first placed them, still in their pots, seemed symmetrical, but as we looked at it, we realized one would have much more shade than the other. So we moved the trees and finally found the just-right spots, where one would walk down the path and through the two lemons, into the dog cemetery. We dug two holes and built up the hillside on the outer edge of the holes so they’d be secure and not wash away.

Soon guests came. Prudence, Julie, Racina all helped with the site preparation. Nicole and Candace came, as did Mike, and Ben, and Jonathan, and Mel. Even an Hungarian woman showed up after seeing the notice in the L.A. Times. I beat the sacred Taos drums as guests arrived, drums passed down in Dolores’ family, now to me.

We began by filling and touching our cups, and sharing a Toast to Dolores.
We read poesic arts works, and discussed death. A few words were spoken about Dolores. Then we went to the trees. Everyone gathered around. I cut Dolores’ last garment in two, the garment that she wore on her last days. It was a long gray cotton night shirt, and I put half in each hole, explaining how it would be also good for the tree to maintain moisture during dry times. I cut a few inches of my hair and added it to each hole. We put some Otis (our pot-bellied pig) manure into each hole.

Then it was time for the ashes. The dust from which we came and to which we return. I opened the brown box and found a plastic bag inside. I opened the tie. Inside was the dense white ash. I knew that Dolores was no longer her body, but I also knew that this was left of the body within which Dolores resided. I reached into the plastic bag with my hands and took a handful of the powder and placed it in one hole. I put about half of the power into each hole. My hands were white with Dolores’ ash, which gave my hands a silky feel. I saved a little ash to see if anyone else wanted to save some, but no one did. Everyone had been so very quiet. (I was later told, privately by four different people, that they had never seen human ash before, and that they were a bit shocked that I handled them with my bare hands. Prudence told me it seemed like an act of Love. I can only say that it seemed like the right thing to do, to not have fear or repulsion for the ashes of my beloved, but to touch them.)

Then we planted the trees, everyone pitching in to get the trees aligned and watered.
When done, everyone put a rock around the base, and added a little water to the trees. We read more readings, looked at Dolores’ beautiful and unique photography. I smoked Luther Standing Bear’s pipe, blowing smoke to the four directions, to honor Dolores’ site, where her ashes will nourish the trees, where the fruits will absorb the nutrients from that ash, where we will one day consume lemons nurtured by Dolores’ essence.

The weather was perfect for the event. The rain stopped as we began, and the sky had a unique shade of blue, as large billowing clouds filled the sky. It was the sort of skyscape that you expect to see in classical European art.

Finally, Racina sang a wonderful rendition of "You Lift Me Up" and John Denver’s "Country Road." It was beautiful.We cleaned up and departed, and wished the very best to our dear friend Dolores.

My friend Christopher Reamer could not join us that day, but he wrote, "I am one person who was inspired by Dolores, and will continue to be. Peace to you and her in this awesome journey of life. Christopher Reamer."

Monday, December 07, 2009


Terumasa – Nami’s friend from Japan – had arranged to visit in December of 2008. Though Dolores tried to work out the details of his stay, she wasn’t really able to fully do so, even with my help. Nevertheless, Terumasa arrived after Dolores had already died. In the few remaining days before Fikret returned to Germany, Fikret taught Terumasa how to feed the dogs and perform several of the tasks that Fikret had admirably taken on.

In the evenings of late December and early January, I would often sit with Terumasa and Nami and have dinner together, often watching television, and always trying to converse with Terumasa. Terumasa was a noble man who exuded greatness. I loved to be around him, and wished that our language barrier was reduced.

One late afternoon, after we had the backyard memorial for Dolores, a few people lingered in the backyard and living room to talk. Terumasa sat there next to me, with Mel sitting there listening. Terumasa looked at me while we talked about Dolores. He said, "Christopher," to gain my attention.

"Christopher," he repeated with great concern in his voice.
"Why are we born? Why are here? Why do we live this life? Why must we experience all this pain?" He paused. He was about to cry. He added, "Why do we die?"

We were all silent for a few moments. Joe Hall looked at me, wondering what I would say. Joe had previously made it clear to me that he didn’t believe in reincarnation, so I suppose he wanted to see how I would respond. Mel commented, "Those are the questions, alright."

I nodded to Terumasa. What could I say? Should I offer my opinion as to the meaning of life and death in a few simple words with the attempt to cross the chasm of our English-Japanese divide.

"Yes, what is this all about?" I asked rhetorically. I felt that I was certainly able to intellectually approach those questions, but I did not feel emotionally up to it in that moment.

"Let’s talk about that some more soon," was all I offered.

Eventually, only Joe Hall and Mel remained talking, and when I finally walked Mel to his car, he turned and said, "We should get together and talk about Terumasa’s questions. I’d really like that."

"OK," I told him. "We will, but you have to promise to come." Mel said OK.

About a month later, on Thursday January 29, we planned Boy Voyage party for Terumasa, who would be actually departing Saturday morning. We invited many people, and planned to have Japanese tea and Japanese food.

We set up an outside table up on the hill at the wildlife sanctuary, with lights and a table full of dinner. Nami came up with Terumasa and we invited them to sit down. It took a little while for Terumasa to realize that this was a party for him. He laughed loudly when he realized this was a surprise for him!

We filled our tea cups and touched them together for our toast, reciting the words of a little cartoon – Love Is…

Then, all holding hands in a circle in the darkness of the evening, we recited a work called "Friendship Bridge."

Then, after asking Terumasa about the details of his departure, and what he’d be doing back in Japan, we made the effort to answer his questions. Prudence and I prepared with different parts of the book "Thinking and Destiny" by Harold Percival, along with our own insights.

We didn’t want our bon voyage to Terumasa to become a strict metaphysical study, but rather we wanted to provide some preliminary answers to his serious query. It was as much for us as it was for Terumasa.

We decided that we were born upon this world in order to continue our spiritual evolution. Each of us added some comments to this, but everyone seemed to concur that this is why we are here, and which is why we are here to live this life.

The subject of pain was much more complex. Yet, we quickly denounced the notion that our pain is something given to us, or done to us, by "god," as is so often averred by religious zealots. In fact, in all the cases of individual and large scale pain that we could list, we felt that we are our own worst enemy. We men and women are the sources of pain on the earth, which usually come about by some violation of natural law, some breaking of the Ten Commandments, not abiding by the Golden Rule, and by partaking of the Seven Capital Sins. Our pain is the result of our own choices, and when we learn from our pain and our choices, we – if we are intelligent – learn to make other choices.

This was a big topic, but again everyone was in agreement that we bring our own pain upon ourselves, and that pain is largely unavoidable.

Then we talked about death. Prudence read from "Thinking and Destiny" and pointed out that death can be a friend to our Spiritual Self, that our bodies are simply not destined to live forever, and that – like it or not – we will all die as part of our long progress towards spiritual perfection.

This was not wholly agreeable to all, but the topic of death is so full of emotion and opinion and religious dogma that we did not attempt to have agreement all around, and that was OK.

By now we were feasting on some delicious Japanese fish and soup, and we gave Terumasa some gifts to take back to Japan. He really enjoyed the roll of the new George Washington brass dollars that he was given.

We all exchanged phone numbers and emails and we all hugged. It was clear to all that change was coming soon, and that this wonderful warrior would soon be gone. By 9:30, we all departed, and on the following Saturday morning, Terumasa flew away to Japan.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Since the Angeles Crest Highway was opened last week, and since I heard that it might be closed again with possible mudslides in the coming rainstorm, I drove up there this morning. It was quite a sight to see mile after mile of grey and black hillsides from the Station Fire. I noted that lots of new growth was here and there, such as sprouts from Laurel Sumac, and chamise, and grasses.
I wanted to see Switzers, so I parked there along the road, and happened to see my great mechanic, Raz from Eagle Rock. He was all smiles and telling me about his reactions to the burn.
I walked down the quiet road and examined the camp -- I was happy to see that the fire left the bridge, the outhouses, all the tables intact! The fire came right down to the river bottom in places, but didn't burn through the bottomland where all the tables and infrastructure are located.
I saw bear scat, and portions of a recently killed deer on the trail in the camp. The trail was all covered with leaves, and it all had an abandoned feel to it. But I was very happy to see the picnic area more or less intact.
I even spotted a yucca plant in full bloom, as if the fire tricked it into thinking it was April.
I took many pictures, and really enjoyed my morning jaunt. But it cost me $75 in the ticket that was on my windshield, payable to some agency in North Carolina! Oh well.....

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


December 9, 2008
[Part of a book I am working on about Dolores, and our life’s lessons]

It had been a tough week so far, and it was only Tuesday morning. Dolores’ left leg had continued to get swollen the last few days, while her right leg appeared thin from her weight loss of the previous month. She was still only "eating" juices, mostly frozen, and I was constantly worried that she still could not hold down anything more solid.

And I slept lightly and sporadically Monday night, as most nights the previous weeks. I had the occasional dark nightmares which would wake me up, and then I’d try to fall back into a light sleep.

I don’t recall if Dolores called me to wake me up or if I just hopped up and checked on her. But I could tell something was really wrong. Dolores seemed to be in a state of shock. It wasn’t something she said but just the way she was. I could tell she was struggling, and that she was distant. The room was cold and I was immediately upset with myself that I had allowed the fire in the corner wood stove to die down. I went to Dolores and asked if she needed anything. She seemed to have difficulty talking, and asked me to turn her from side to side, something I often did.

But this morning was different.
I felt a panic and my body was instantly in a light sweat. The room was cold but not icy. I asked
Dolores how she was. She responded that she wanted to be turned. I rolled her over to her other side. She could not get comfortable. I rolled her a few times, and she was trying hard to find a comfortable spot, which was difficult.

I told Dolores that I was going to call Prudence, that I needed help. She said no, don’t bother. I could tell that Dolores simply didn’t want to be a bother to anyone else. She knew that Prudence had to go to work and was concerned about Prudence.

"I’m going to call her," I told Dolores, for I could tell Dolores’ body was in trouble. She didn’t look right, and there was a bit of bloating. I had been hoping that Dolores would get much better and that we’d go to Hawaii. We had laughed about going to Hawaii two days earlier. Now I was panicked.

I got Dolores some of her iced juices to suck on and then I continued rolling her from side to side. She could not get comfortable.

Prudence arrived and began massaging Dolores’ bloated leg. My panic subsided, and I somehow clicked into a clinical perspective so I could keep my emotions under control. Deep inside I was crying deeply, praying deeply to whatever Life Force and gods controlled our part of the universe. I wanted Dolores to live and I wanted to continue the momentum of our renewed relationship. I knew that Dolores said she was content to do this body purging, as she called it, come what may. But I also know that she wanted to live. She often told me all of the things she still wanted to do. The publication of so many books and cards. The promotion of all the works of her mentor. The renewal of her relationship with her daughter Barbara. A second chance, she said. We had watched a movie called the Second Chance, and this made Dolores’ face so bright and alive. We both knew that we would go forward together, another chance, and that a bright future awaited us. Dolores could not die.

Prudence and I spoke little, and we worked on Dolores’ legs and body like two workers who had done this a million times. We were doing what we felt needed to be done, in accord with what Dolores was telling us. I later learned that Prudence hid her panic well, and she experienced more fear and panic than I did.

I was glad to do all that I could for Dolores. We’d lived the better part of our lives together. We’d had our ups and downs, and for better or worse, our lives were completely intertwined. I wanted Dolores to live and be healthy as naturally as I wanted that for myself.

Dolores seemed less able to guide us in what we were doing. We kept rolling her from side to side, kept on some music, and Dolores worked the swollen leg. It was exhausting, and Prudence was reaching her limit before she had to go to work. I called Julie.

Julie came quickly and we both continued to massage Dolores legs and feet. One leg was emaciated and the other was swollen. She had good sensitivity in her soles. I began to talk to Dolores constantly even though she was less and less responsive. My mind was racing. Should I call the paramedics? If I do, what if she dies in their care and doesn’t recover? Then I would not be able to fulfill her final wishes? Plus, Dolores didn’t want to go to a hospital.

Julie and I continued to turn her body from side to side, and I tried to get her to drink liquids. By 11:30 a.m., she had become unresponsive, though she kept asking me to turn her. It seemed that a sort of panic overtook Dolores’ mind, and she wanted me to roll her rapidly from side to side, as if it was impossible to be comfortable. Julie watched in silent wonder, and maybe fear.

After a half hour of this, I worked on massaging Dolores arms, and Julie worked the feet. Dolores was silent. She rolled a bit, and then I watched as Dolores seemed to pull up into herself—hard to describe. I watched as her face pulled up into itself, as there was some inner pain Dolores was experiencing. I knew she was going, but didn’t want to believe it. Her face pressed into the pillow and the elasticity that you normally see in the skin of the face wasn’t there as her face froze into a death pose. I closed her eyes, motioned to Julie that Dolores had died, and I lay down next her, and hugged her for the next 30 minutes as I could barely breathe through my choked tears. My best friend was gone.

In many significant respects, parts of me died with Dolores, and yet many parts were awakened.


Memories of Christmas Season 2008

[This is one small section of a book I am writing about my life with Dolores, how we lived, and how we dealt with death.]

In the days after Dolores died, I still spent my evenings with Nami and Fikret and Nellie (the little dog that Dolores boarded), cooking dinner, sharing dinner, talking over television. Both Nami and Fikret were living in rooms in the front part of the duplex. Nami was from Tokyo, working at a Japanese firm in downtown Los Angeles while she earned her CPA license. Fikret was a student from Germany who’d be going home in a few days.

That December was dark, pressing, my mind a constricted box of sorrow and loss.
RW had earlier suggested to Dolores that she take Nami and Fikret to see the annual Griffith Park festival of lights, and Dolores had mentioned it to Fikret. I brought it up to Fikret and he wanted to go. I think he was more concerned about me getting out and "getting normal" than he was about seeing some electric light display. Anyway, he arranged with Nami to go one evening after Nami got home from work, and I drove.

I had never seen the light show either, and though I was in no mood for "joy," I wanted Nami and Fikret to feel happiness, and the joy of the season that the youth can best appreciate.
My mental state was very constrictive, narrow, even subdued horror. It was as if I’d been hit in the face with a 2x4, and I could not see beyond my shocked pain. But I tried, with great effort, to "enjoy" an evening out with Nami and Fikret as best I could. It was the weekend after Dolores died. Nami got home early from work, and it was already dark. Fikret made a very light meal – more of a snack – for everyone before we drove off to Griffith Park in my Jeep. I was preoccupied with now living a life turned upside-down, with no perception of light at the end of my tunnel.

Fikret and Nami were noticeably happy, upbeat, and they seemed to be happy to be doing something with me. Fikret had come on a few field trips with, but I’d only gone out rarely with Nami. I know they were both fully cognizant of my pain and I think they were being happy because they wanted me to be happy. I think that the lights of Griffith Park were a very minor attraction.

As we drove, we spoke about their day, and other light matters. I always enjoyed talking with Nami over dinner about what sort of day she had at work, and what new English words she learned. We drove into the large expansive parking lot east of the Los Angeles Zoo, and drove around until we saw where to park for the festival of lights. People parked their cars, and then boarded buses which set sail every 15 minutes or so, or until the buses were full. The three of us were the first to enter a bus, so we got the seats we wanted. A few adults filed in, and then a whole group of school children came in and filled the bus. The driver turned off the lights, and we were off down the two miles or so of the electric light display.

The children spontaneously sang Christmas carols at the tops of their voices. Nami and Fikret tried to follow along: Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Silent Night, all the classics. Mostly, the children sang enthusiastically and loud with lots of laughter for the first verse until the song faded as the children didn’t know the words. After loud laughter, another song would begin.

I could tell they were all having great fun, though I was barely there. I had to shut off most of my painful feelings and emotions and turn on only that part of me that was needed for ordinary interactions with others. I was glad that there was so much happiness in the world, but I was in pain.

I was in a darkness of my own, alone, as if I was severely and suddenly cut off from all that was important to me. Which was, in fact, what happened. After the light show, we returned to the Jeep, and I drove on in a stupor. I asked Nami and Fikret if they wanted to see more Christmas lights, and they said yes. Christmas Tree Lane was impressive, but monotonous to me. Nami and Fikret just said "Oohh," and "Ahhh," and "Look at those, wow!" I tried to explain the history of Christmas Tree Lane, how I grew up just around the corner, and I drove by our family home on North Los Robles.

I didn’t want to go home quite yet. "Going home" would mean that I would go back to the rear duplex alone, would sit there for awhile listening to music or watching TV, feeling the full grief of losing Dolores, by myself. It meant I would go to sleep with my grief, unable to find solace in music or TV. I would turn off the TV and music, and in the darkness I would fall into my abyss of sorrow until I awoke the next day. No, I didn’t want to go home yet.

I told Nami and Fikret that I knew of another Christmas light display and we drove across town looking for it. We never found it, but they got a tour of East Pasadena and Sierra Madre before we stopped for some snacks and finally went home.

We then went into the front kitchen when we got home, and enjoyed some cookies and coffee. We all laughed together and we watched a little bit of a Christmas movie on TV. It was a good evening overall, but it would be a long time before I could feel joy again.