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Christmas songs aren't the same after tragedy
Even Christmas songs take on a new meaning after a nation experiences a collective tragedy like the Connecticut shootings.

Date published: 12/21/2012

By Cathy Dyson

UNTIL THIS December, I never realized how many Christmas songs are filled with lyrics about people longing for holidays gone by.

Maybe I hadn't noticed before. Or maybe even Christmas songs take on a new meaning after the unimaginable happens and children are gunned down in their classrooms.

I confess that last Friday, after almost two hours of news reports and sobering images from Newtown, Conn., I couldn't absorb any more.

I needed something else to think about.

I was relieved to see a Christmas show on TV.

I wrapped up in a soft, fuzzy throw my friend, Cathy, gave me a few years ago and prepared to empty my mind for a few minutes.

Singer and host Michael Buble was more than accommodating, and I felt better--until he and country singer Blake Shelton took the stage for a Christmas version of "Home."

You know the heartfelt tune that Buble co-wrote and recorded, then Shelton released his own version of a few years later:

Another summer day

Has come and gone away

In Paris and Rome

But I wanna go home


A few years ago, Shelton asked Buble to write some Christmas lyrics to go with the tune. The holiday version is even more haunting.

When Buble got to the second verse of it, I thought my heart would rip open:

May be surrounded by

Strangers and Christmas lights

I shouldn't feel so alone

But I wanna go home.

God I miss you, you know.

All I could think about was the people whose definition of "home"--where they were comfortable, safe and secure--would never be the same again. Some of those who had made their house a home were gone before they even had a chance to start living.

Then I got to thinking about other Christmas songs and realized this one wasn't an anomaly. Many of the classics speak to a better time, a simpler time, a time when people thought about "yuletide carols being sung by a choir," not what kind of security measures were in place at their local elementary schools.

"White Christmas" is a perfect example. What did Irving Berlin dream about the most?

The Christmas that he used to know.

When I heard "I'll Be Home for Christmas" this week, the heartbreak screamed out at me.

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams.

I know I'm viewing Christmas through a different lens this year, as most people probably are. And I realize we all have the tendency to look at the past--and the loved ones who were part of our lives then--through rose-colored glasses.

In a way, I think that's one of life's great blessings, that our memories can allow us to filter out the unpleasant moments and cling to the "olden days, happy golden days of yore."

I feel guilty even thinking about a happy holiday, knowing what the mourners in Connecticut are going through.

I hope that they, as well as those who grieve for victims of other tragedies--along with loved ones we've all lost to the natural passing of time--can find some small measure of comfort in their memories of merrier Christmases.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com