Christmas Letter to those I Know and Don’t Know

What can I say?

Holiday season.

I wish you as bright a holiday as our times permit.

I wish you much joy, some sharing, much learning, some caring.

I wonder if you are well. In body and in mind. I wonder if you are relating each to the rest. Not drifting. Souls alight. Souls aflame.

As to me. Well…

My father was born on Christmas Eve. No celebration yesterday for him. He is dead. My mother was born on New Year’s Day. No celebration for her next week. Same reason. My brother was born in mid August. No celebration four and a half months ago. Dead. My sister Anita’s Covid constrained birthday was nine days ago. Anita lives on. Anita’s son Marc and his family live on. I live on.

The three deaths I handled in stride. Not no pain. But not too much pain. Those deaths were life and life only.

Lydia’s birthday is fifteen days off. Her death I have not handled so well. I hope it hasn’t hit anyone else as hard.

Lydia was in my every day, every night, work and play, for nearly fifty years. Defying demise, she is still always around. There is nothing I do that can’t surface links to Lydia. Not everything does. But many things do. Many times each day. No rhyme. No reason. Closing time but no closing.

The phone I hear, it must be Lydia. The TV show I watch, she needs to see it. The meal I eat, she doesn’t want the celery in it. The snow, resting pretty in the trees, I want to show her. A car quietly backs into me as I walk along, tuned out. I want to tell her. The words I write, the thoughts I speak, they hopelessly await her comment. Trying to not think of Lydia, of course, I think of Lydia.

Sometimes the connection is tenuous. The pain passes relatively easily. Sometimes the connection is tight. The pain persists.

Death? I can’t fathom it. Understanding fails.

Maybe I am lucky that when some daily misstep brings Lydia forward, I don’t literally see her in my mind. I have an unusual condition. No mind’s eye. I never see Lydia in my mind because I never see anything there. I can’t see you there, or anywhere. Not all of you. Not any of you. Not precisely. Not even roughly. Not at all. Between my ears, behind my eyes, my mind has always displayed darkness. I guess in that mental sense I have had a step up on the final step ever since my first breath. But memories, meanings, queries, requests, recriminations, and apologies – they all grab my mind. They grab hard. They grab often. Life and life only.

Do I know you? Is there room in your mind for Lydia? For me? I think about those I know daily. I try to square the circle of our more tortured recent and past histories. I fail. I can’t do that quarantined.

Do I not know you? Have you lost someone close? I hope not. Are you reaching out, I hope so. Stay safe. Stay strong. Help others.

Truth is always revolutionary. Truth is not always joyful. Tell truth always, but when necessary, stare truth down. Don’t deny truth but when need be defy truth.

What can I say? We all just do what we can. We all just do what we do. Until we don’t.


  1. avatar
    Michael December 27, 2020 1:52 pm 

    Thank goodness. Thank you.

    So honest, so beautiful.

  2. avatar
    Paulo Rodriguez December 26, 2020 1:39 pm 

    Dear Mike,

    I don’t have your eloquence nor Lydia’s. I’m also uncertain these words will have the effect I intend them to have, but I sincerely hope I’m mistaken.

    You and Lydia, over the course of decades, have informed, agitated, provided hope, laughter and sometimes tears. You and Lydia lit the fire that drove many people to achieve incredible things. Remember all the people from Z School? Remember Dominick? Your visit to the WSF? To Chavez? The “Go to the beach” talk you gave in Australia that made me laugh so much… dealing with intellectually intransigent youth, not willing to open up their minds to different views? “Well, now I’ve got the mic, cuz I’m not always here” you said. The room erupted in laughter, and so did I. 🙂

    When was the last time you read your biography? It might sound a bit daft to ask the very writer to read his own stuff but… you changed a lot of people’s lives in ways that are incredibly difficult to calculate. I remember when you came to Belgium for the IOPS stuff, and I had to drive you around from Germany to Belgium and then to France. You were all ranting about the Beatles and what they meant to you. I was too “starstuck” to actually grab the opportunity to connect with you in any meaningful way. But there are no words to describe the effect you had on me.

    In that respect, your ideas and actions have shaped who I have become politically, and by extension , have helped me to become a truly compassionate being, not hampered by ideological misconstructs serving only selfish needs.

    I am so sorry to hear that you are feeling such pain, and I suspect I’m wholly unequipped to provide you with relief. But I, and I am certain many other people, have nothing but love and admiration for the individual you are. Warts and all, buddy.

    The question you ask is a redundant one, pardon my audacity. Not only is there room in our minds for Lydia and you. There is also room in our hearts, and it’s the size of Mount Rushmore.

    Talk is cheap. But at the moment it might be the only thing I can offer….

    You are not alone. Not in your pain, not in your joy. 🙂
    Melodramatic and sappy perhaps, but some really smart bloke told me that the truth is always revolutionary. So…

    I love you man.

    Stay safe.

  3. avatar
    jlc December 26, 2020 1:53 am 

    There’s room in lots of minds for Michael and Lydia. Every day. World-changers. Life-changers.

  4. avatar
    Joel Isaacs December 25, 2020 7:17 pm 

    Blessings to you, Michael.
    You and Lydia have given so much to me, and to so many others.
    And that’s the truth.

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