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a passionate repentance

The Wexford Carol

The Wexford Carol

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may God stand
Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day;
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox's stall.

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star,
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay,
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah was,
They humbly cast them at his feet,
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God's angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
'Prepare and go', the angles said.
'To Bethlehem, be not afraid:
For there you'll find, this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find,
And as God's angel had foretold,
They did our saviour Christ behold.
Within a manger he was laid,
And by his side the virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of life,
Who came on earth to end all strife

When Ken was in the last stages of his cancer, his partner had him set up in Ken's old ritual room, with music to play all the time. There weren't candles burning, the tv was almost always playing for a while, but it was *home*, even if Ken was in a honking big hospital bed, with a special morphine pump for 'breakout' pain.

I remember Hank asked me what sort of music Ken liked, and I told him that I thought Ken liked Loreena McKennitt. So Hank put "To Drive The Cold Winter Away" on the cd player and it played over and over. I really remember that, the muted candle light, and the sound of "The Wexford Carol" playing over and over again. I wonder now what Ken thought of all that but I imagine he was just really glad to be *home* and with the people he loved.

I remember that song especially, because I liked the melody at first. I used to listen to it before Ken got sick, before this particular album came out. Listening to Nanci Griffith's reedy, sweet soprano singing it, on "Prairie Home Companion" with the lights off, and my eyes closed.

And then for a long time I couldn't listen to the album at all. I felt physically sick. It was like a magnet pressed against me, pole to pole, pushing me away. Just like for a long time, now..I couldn't watch "Godspell" because that was the thing I was watching when the call came that he was dying and it was time to say goodbye.

They say that time heals all these wounds. I don't know if that's true. I think that time just passes. You have to attend to the business of healing yourself. I can listen to the carol now..but it will never be just about Jesus' birth to me. I'll remember the guildworkers who commissioned it, the competitions between guilds to make their Christmas pageants and stories the best. I'll remember Nanci Griffith's sweet warble, all laced with static from the cheap radio, in the dark with a cat purring on the bed, and it seemed as if my whole world was a small dark place full of music.

And I'll remember Ken, curled up on the bed, and grimacing until I pushed the pump. Pushed because he was too weak to do it himself. He was getting smaller and thinner and paler. Getting further and further away as he got ready. And the music was there like a heartbeat, pushing him onward and outward. Away from us as he slipped into the dark water, and the silence. Waiting to be born.
  • My husband's best friend was named Ken. And passed in very similar circumstances, though it was his wife who pushed the buttons for him. For him, the holiday is Fourth of July. What is it about holidays?
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