This season has gotten away from me and I am only this week rushing around buying presents for my mother and a few very close friends.
It truly is a strange Christmas without my father (who, as you know doubt know, died very suddenly on September 14th). His absence is deep and profound. In my parents' home, the Christmas tree is not up (the first time ever in my memory), there are no decorations and very few presents.
My mother is doing very well. Her natural Scandanavian stoicism has kicked in and, although she is in pain, she recognizes it, wipes away the tears, says things like, “I just need to get through this!” and then just chugs right on through.
For me, the initial shock and pain has given way now to a deep ache. The only way I can describe it is that I often feel as though there is a wire deep inside me that tightens and tightens until I finally break down, which happens often (though less often than it did) and when it does it is usually when I am alone or when I have slowed down (both of which I have been avoiding as much as possible).
It is in moments like this that I am thankful for my faith, and for my Priesthood especially. I sometimes am amazed how regular Eucharist and my daily round of Morning and Evening Prayer have grounded me and kept me centered. My pastoral duties have definitely given me something to get up for on some of the more difficult mornings.
As you may know, my father’s death came in the midst of a spat of funerals. In September (the month my father died) I ended up doing five funerals, one just two days after my father died. What I have discovered about myself through all of this is that I am stronger than I ever initially thought. No doubt I inherited much of this strength from my father (and mother too of course).
Mom will come to the rectory on Christmas Eve and stay with me through the Christmas weekend (though she has said she will not attend Christmas Eve Mass at St. Stephen’s—it is still too emotional for her). On Christmas Day, we will have Cornish game hens in orange sauce and then will possibly go to the movies later in the day (the new Cohen Brothers film will be out by then).
As you know, my book, Fargo, 1957, came out December 14. It’s a beautiful book (despite its subject matter). There was a wonderful reading and publication party at the Spirit Room on December 18, with some absolutely gorgeous music by oboist Justin Schwartz. The book itself has been selling briskly and there has been lots of buzz around it, which I have been loving. If you'd like to order a copy (hint hint), check out my website for ordering information: http://jamieparsley.com/Fargo57.html
My wonderful congregation of St. Stephen’s has been outstanding in their love and support of me and they have truly rallied around me and my mom during this difficult time. They have a great new website (which I helped out with): http://ststephensfargo.org/
And you, my friends, have been a very solid anchor in my lives. I am very thankful for all of you.
Please know I am grateful for having you in my life. I will remember you in my thoughts, my daily prayers, at the altar as I celebrate the Eucharist during this Christmas season and, as always, in my heart.
My special hope is that your Christmas season will be filled with joy and love and that your 2011 will be wonderful and filled with many blessings.
by Jamie Parsley
a deep sigh.
I could live
sigh. A sigh