Last Christmas, I confess I shed a tear. And it’s not because I loved the incessant soundtrack around this time of year, which includes: “Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away. Next year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.”
It was upon the news of the man who made it famous, George Michael, dying on Christmas Day. I enjoyed Wham! and his “Careless Whisper” more than I care to admit, perhaps belting it out a time or two in the heyday of MTV. As a senior class president, I was horrified as our DJ played another song of his that was as inappropriate as they get just as our Dominican sister principal and assistant principal at our all-girls prep school walked through the prom room door. As a young girl, I also might have thought George Michael was a pro-life activist because of a certain “Choose Life” T-shirt in the video “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” completely oblivious to the meaning of the lyrics.
I share that nostalgia for a little long-lasting innocence in remembering the life of David Cassidy, too. When you go back and watch The Partridge Family and listen to the lyrics to some of his songs — “I Think I Love You” comes to mind — you may be tempted to long for a more innocent time. Of course, the ’70s and ’80s were no such thing. And no matter of overheated anger, triumphalism or dismay about politics or sadness over the utter confusion of the culture could change that.
Listening to interviews with Cassidy, before and after his diagnosis of dementia — some about his struggle later in life with alcoholism — he describes a spiritual gift from God he said he received where God’s presence was so palpably clear to Cassidy, and his own weakness so unmistakable. He seemed to credit family taking him to church throughout his youth for his certainty about it. But most startling were the words his daughter reported he said upon leaving this world: “So much wasted time.”
Is there a person among us who isn’t summoned to an examination of conscience hearing such a declaration? “So much wasted time” could be an examination of conscience just about any day, every day. So how are we going to change it?
I often think, too, of Robin Williams and that when he died of suicide, I realized I had no memory of ever having prayed for him. I’d certainly watched “Mork & Mindy” and “Dead Poets Society” around the time I was singing along with Wham! and the rest. All three of these men had their crosses and weaknesses. What if every silly teenager who called themselves Christians had prayed for them? Could it have made a difference? Eased some of the pain? Kept them with us longer?
It appears that last Christmas may not have been our last Christmas, though a couple weeks will tell. While this short Advent is with us, let’s make it count.
The other day, Magnificat had a meditation from German mystic Henry Suso about being childlike and really having an encounter with the lowliness of Christ in the crib this Christmas. As we gaze upon our crèches waiting for the Child, perhaps we prayerfully can put some of those we listen to and are entertained by right there with Mary and Joseph for some of the love they may be looking for, praying that they may come to know the love for which they were made and the love by which they were made. It’s a love there is no cure for, but is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, the lightening of every burden — uniting it with Christ.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).