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Saturday, December 15, 2012

How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?

I need to say something.

I honestly don’t know how I want to word this.  I spent hours trying to compose this message exactly the way that I wanted it to come across, but sometimes it’s sometimes better to just write what comes out of my brain in the heat of the moment, unedited and possibly even uncensored. 

I’m heartsick over recent events...and I really need to use this space to talk about how I am feeling.

On the morning of December 14, 2012, an unprecedented tragedy took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut.  An armed man barged into the school and opened fire on a group of innocent schoolchildren.  By the end of the carnage, twenty-six people were declared dead...among them, twenty children between the ages of five and ten, several teachers (one of whom was the shooter’s own mother), and the school principal.  The shooter inevitably took his own life.

You know, just watching the images unfolding on television, and seeing all of the witness accounts, it almost made all of us feel like we were all there, sympathizing with those parents who were anxiously waiting to hear word on whether their children were safe and sound, and grieving alongside those parents who heard the worst possible news imaginable.

When I first heard the news, I was in complete shock.  Even though we have bore witness to other school shootings (Ecole Polytechnique in 1989, Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007), this one really delivered a sucker punch to almost everyone in the world, just based on the age of the victims.  The majority of the victims in yesterday’s shooting were children who died way too soon at a time which is supposed to be all about happiness and joy.

Life sometimes just isn’t fair.  L

Although Connecticut is fairly far away from where I am currently living, this tragedy has been one that has shocked and saddened me, and I share the feelings of despair and helplessness that the community of Newtown, Connecticut were feeling that day, as did most of the globe.  I suppose one would have to lack a heart not to feel something, anything.

I feel sad that so many people had to die.  I feel disgusted that a situation like this had to happen in the first place.  Most of all, I feel so incredibly sorry for those people who did lose a loved one yesterday.  I just want the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and the student body and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School to know that the heart of this blogger, and the hearts of millions of people all over the world are as broken as yours are right now.  We are grieving your loss right alongside you.

I would like to offer up a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings before I continue.  I did not create this video, but I think it says it all.  

I thought a long time about continuing on with the feature that I had going on all this month.  When I first heard about the news, I contemplated cancelling the blog topic for today, just because I wasn’t sure if I had the heart to talk about the Christmas season and holiday favourites when something so terrible happened.  I just didn’t feel like talking about a happy feature on the day after so much sadness happened, and I even considered not even doing a feature at all today.

But when I looked at what my initial topic was for today, and thought long and hard about it, I thought that maybe there was a way that I could take the topic and use it as a way to talk some more about how some of us might be feeling right now during this time.  And how at the end of the day, maybe there’s something that can come out of tragedy...something that we can all hold onto when the times get excruciatingly tough.

So with that, I welcome you all to partake in the fifteenth day of “The Pop Culture Addict’s Advent Calendar”.   I’m going to do my best to try and make this section not too long...just an introductory paragraph and a brief plot description.   Initially, I was going to give this topic a bit of a scathing review with biting, sarcastic wit...but I’m looking at it through different eyes, and am changing my whole perspective on it in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy.

Today’s subject is going to feature a Christmas special that many people might not remember.  I’ll be the first one to admit that had it not been for YouTube, I would never have even set eyes on it.  It’s not exactly a show that gets a lot of airplay.  I’m not exactly sure why that is the case now, but I had a bit of a hypothesis as to why this could have been the case when it first debuted in 1977.

My sister will probably want to tear a strip off of me for admitting this now, but when the show first debuted, she was five years old (and I hadn’t even been born yet), and at first she was really excited to watch it...but midway through she ended up becoming so emotionally distraught over it that my poor mother had to change the channel midway through.  But why would a television special elicit such a strong reaction out of my then-five year old sister?

I’m sure those of you who are my sister’s age or older might understand when I say the following words.  Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.

By all accounts, the television special should have worked.  It was produced by Rankin-Bass, the creative team behind “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”.  And much like Rudolph, the entire special was done entirely in stop-motion animation. 

The story is set in the days of the Roman Empire, and in a stable lived a little donkey named Nestor.  Nestor was just like all the other donkeys in the stable with one glaring exception.  His ears were considerably longer than all the other donkeys.  They were so long, they dragged on the ground.  Now, you know how some kids could be cruel to other kids who may look or act differently than they do?  Well, all of the other donkeys used to laugh and call Nestor names, and Nestor didn’t like this one bit.  Thankfully, Nestor’s mother was entirely devoted to her son, and she was his rock during the early minutes of the special.  Nestor’s mother even gave her son some woolen socks to keep his ears warm during the cold winter months as a Winter Solstice present.

So for a few minutes, Nestor and his mother lived happily...until some soldiers from the Roman Empire came a knocking on their front door.  The soldiers are looking for some donkeys to take back with them for a fee, and the group that they end up choosing include Nestor.  But when the deal causes Nestor to become separated from his mother, Nestor tries to escape and causes a scene, which makes the soldiers believe that the stable owner has tried to trick them.  By the end of the scuffle, the soldiers take the remaining donkeys free of charge, and the angry stable owner who ended up losing money because of Nestor chucks the poor donkey out of the stable, heartlessly telling him that he didn’t care if he froze to death.

Nestor isn’t alone for long, as his mother manages to escape the stables to be with him.  But a terrible winter storm is fast approaching, and with no indoor shelter to be found, it quickly becomes a dangerous situation.  Like any mother would, she used her own body to keep Nestor warm during the whole storm.  By the end, Nestor was the cost of his mother’s life.

(This was the point of the show in which my mom had to change the channel thirty-five years ago.)

Nestor is obviously distraught over losing the most important figure in his life, and he isn’t sure about how to go on...until he happens to cross paths with a little cherub who introduces herself as Tilly.  And Tilly has a message for Nestor.  She tells him that he needs to find a way to get himself to the settlement known as Bethlehem.  She says that he should take pride in his long ears (the same ears that many of the other donkeys made fun of), saying that the ears were going to be able to do wonderful things.  He could use them to guide himself on a pathway that is true.  She also gives Nestor a prophecy...that he would use his ears to save the life of another in exactly the same way Nestor’s mother saved him.  But once Nestor ends up making it to Bethlehem, it seems as though history is doomed to repeat itself, as nobody in town seems interested in a long-eared donkey.

That is until a man and his very pregnant wife approach him.  Both are down on their luck without hardly any money to their names.  But the woman saw something kind and gentle in Nestor’s eyes, and they both decided that he was just the donkey that would help them.  Their names?  Mary and Joseph.

The couple then proceed to get caught in a violent sandstorm, which threatens harm onto the scared young couple.  Luckily, Nestor’s long ears makes the perfect protection for Mary to huddle up in as they make their way through the storm.  The ending for this story becomes much happier, as they make it to their destination in one piece, and Mary gives birth to baby Jesus. 

And alas, the prophecy came true.  Nestor’s ears helped save the lives of Mary, Joseph, and their newborn baby, who as you know was born on Christmas Day. 

I suppose the one thing that we can take away from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is that the special is subject to a lot of interpretations.  Originally, I was going into it thinking that it was one of the most depressing Christmas specials ever made, and now I think that there’s a glimmer of opportunity and hope within it.  Yes, Nestor losing his mother was a horrible thing to have happened, and yes, the scene did make you cry...but seeing what it lead to at the end of the television special...well, in a way, it did offer hope to Nestor that there could be beauty at the end of a dark tunnel.  That there could be a day in which he could feel happy again.  That there was a way to look at something incredibly negative and still manage to hold onto something that will keep you going.

That something is hope.

I have a feeling that it is going to take a very, very long time for the community of Newtown, Connecticut to process everything that happened.  For the people who ended up losing loved ones in the tragedy, the pain will never truly go away.

But one thing that we can take from this is that broken hearts do eventually heal.  They may not heal over exactly the same way as they did before, and some people will forever be missing a piece of themselves from this day forward.  But I also like to think that those who do leave us unexpectedly never truly leave us.  They remain within ourselves, and their spirits live and breathe inside of us as long as we keep remembering them.  In the case of Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, Nestor’s mother lived on through Tilly, the cherub that foresaw Nestor’s future.

And in Newtown, Connecticut, an entire community came together to grieve their losses and to support each other.  Taking solace in praying for those who were killed.  Holding onto their children a little tighter.  Leaning on one another to get through the first of many days of wondering ‘why’.

Trying to find some glimmer of hope in the wake of a tragedy. 

All that I can do at this time is continue to mourn those innocent lives that were taken away from the world way too soon, and continue to hold on to what seemingly little hope that we all need to have with us in order to get through what happened as best we can.

This post is dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 14, 2012.  Our hearts are with you all, and may you rest in peace as angels watch over you.

On that note, I’m ending this piece for today.  I’ll be back tomorrow with Day #16 of this blog, as I’ll try to continue on with the advent calendar. 

Keep on staying strong...and never lose hope or faith.  Just take comfort in each other during this time, and be kind to one another. 

Kindness and love is more powerful than hate and violence.

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