Christmas can be an especially difficult time for those who have recently lost a loved one. Amidst the family celebrations, that loved one’s absence is more pronounced than their presence, although over the years one discovers how different family traditions and even attitudes persist in such a way as to make the loved one’s presence felt acutely.
But, it is not the same. It is never the same. And this year, for no particular reason, the absence of two loved ones has been acute.
All through Advent, I found my thoughts drawn to memories of Father Joseph Kugler. He was the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Willimantic when I was a teenager and was kind enough to let me practice on that church’s organ. I wrote about that experience last summer, about how the mystic chords of memory made Joe seem very present. I credit Joe with being the principal instrument of grace in keeping me within the Church at a time when many young people leave and never look back.