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A solitary heart-leaf remains on the vine, long stripped of its greenery—an image that suggests grieving.

Certainly, beneath house tops outlined in blinking lights live those stricken by losses: disease, desertion, divorce, and death—There’s no getting away from them. Such devastation leaves hearts crimped, isolated, lonely.

Around the eyes, soft tissues sting with tears until the next upheaval., then more redness, more Kleenex, and more sobs sounding like a car with a flat tire. 

Anger flares when Santa is too jolly, when the overcooked turkey tastes like sandpaper, when no one helps clean up.

Alone again without guests, pain crazes the heart like fissures in an Oriental vase: precious, but broken. Only a glazier can restore it and make it serviceable again.

Such is like the artistry of Creator God: The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears… The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. (Psalm 34: 17-18)

Prayer helps with this restoration and renewal of life. Next year Christmas will come around, different but with traditions just as meaningful.

A sugar maple flames above me. Slippery winds nudge a single leaf from its mooring:

Like a gymnast, it flips, sworls, twists, down, down, down. Then cartwheels upon glistening brick walk until flattened. Musk steams from the landing.

Prostrate, the leaf opens to the inevitable: Its ocher stem dried like a useless umbilical cord; hairy veins, empty of nutrients. Stillness gawks at the sacrifice.

Yet such decay rejuvenates the cycle. Again, spring’s leafing will flicker beneath sun-drenched skies.

Grief’s heart-language strains to make sense of the irreparably broken, plumbs bottomless depths for slippery words, and grapples with bits and pieces of flotsam cast about by the oceans of the world. Tears flow like spume crashing down mountain crevices, pooling angry streams, and flooding once-fertile banks. I look around. Uselessness seems to be the norm.

Such is my world this afternoon as I write. To soothe my psyche I perused the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Lamentations (586 BCE) and marveled at its poetic utterances lamenting the plight of the Exilic Jews, vanquished under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar: its city of Jerusalem wasted; its Temple destroyed and left desolate by Yahweh. The tone is bleak.

Yet the burden of their sinfulness, the stinging angst in their psyches, was far worse than the devastation and fires and loss of country. Fortunately for us, the ancient poets of the Book of Lamentations had the spiritual rigor to leave us their ultimate response: hope in the face of the impossible.

Would that someone could craft a response to the brokenness of our world. Certainly the pool of suffering deepens and hope seems stuck away in underground abysses. Certainly prayer, in solitude, can help: Let God be God in His world.

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