On Monday night I went to a carol service in St-Martin’s-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, organized by the charity Missing People, to remember those missing at Christmas. I had been invited to write a poem, as it can be difficult to find readings appropriate to those in this ‘limbo’ – whilst there is loss there is also hope. I wrote this sonnet, ‘The Contradiction’, which was read very movingly by Kate McCann.
The absence contradicts itself:
the missing conjures what we miss.
You are not here, I’m not myself,
but still I talk to you like this.
You’re in the crowd, the news, the glimpse –
I make you there when you’re not there.
I trace your steps, I map your face,
I say your name, see you in air.
You’re all I know and so unknown.
I cannot hold you, yet I do:
please let me hold you in my head
and where you are now, hold me too.
How can you be so near and far?
You are not here. But here you are.
Later, Elizabeth Templeton read a letter addressed to Santa by her son Alan, found amongst his things after he went missing in in 2006. ‘It is possible to make 1000 mistakes in a row. It is possible to get completely lost in bitterness, hate, rage, greed. It is possible to forget the beauty and love which surrounds you and defines who you are. But inside it is still there.’
We sang Silent Night afterwards, and each of us lit a candle to represent our thoughts for those absent. Mine dripped all over my hands and skirt, but the beauty and sadness of it still made me tearful.
The video of the service is here – Kate’s reading is just over 13 minutes in – along with the details on how to donate, and support those with missing relatives at what must be an unbearably difficult time.