One of the worst things about being in public during the holiday season is being forcefully exposed to horrible holiday music. Today it was at the nail salon. As the nice and pretty young girl scrubbed my feet and rubbed my hands with lotions and painted all my nails a very sparkly bubblegum pink, I sat and silently listened to the hideous selections from WARM RADIO, or whatever it was called. WARM RADIO = could not be more offensively bland. This sort of radio station is supposed to be soothing, but it has the opposite effect on me: I get irritable and uncomfortable the longer I listen to it.

Oh, here's Sheryl Crow singing some Christmas song. It was so very unremarkable that I cannot even recall what song it was. I sat there and thought, well there's Sheryl across a table from her manager and assistant and some record company doofs. One of the doofs says, yeah, we think you should make a Christmas album. Sheryl thinks, yeah, I guess I am at that point in my career. There's no getting out of it. She remembers when she felt all rock and roll, a long long long long time ago. She nods and says, OK. Some piece of the souls of all in the room depart for Hell.

Oh, but the next thing is even worse. Some happy-ass sing-along-with-Mitch version of John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" Oh, man. Ouch. I roll my eyes to no one, as the girl is busy hacking away at my cuticles,looking intently down. I think about how much I am not liking the song, and then I remember. Twenty-eight years ago today, John Lennon was killed. The song keeps playing, and I reflect for a moment. He was only 40 years old. At the time, as a teenager, that seemed old to me. Now I think so differently, of course.

His death for many of my generation, younger and older too, was one of those big world-linked tragedies that is hard to explain to anyone who was not alive at the time or too little to remember. How utterly human John Lennon became that night; not a huge celebrity but a man who bled to death from the insult of a gun. All the money and fame in the world could not save him from being broken. All the love from the world could not heal him. He was a man, another man shot him, and he died. What died with him was so much more than his physical body. His family lost him as a father and husband and step-brother and friend, forever without his touch. People who loved his music lost any opportunity to hear what he would do in the future. The worst thing lost was not John Lennon the man, or John Lennon the musician. I am not sure that I have the right words, but it is a similar feeling many had when JFK was killed, or MLK. When someone who brought hope and light and goodness and healing to millions of people is hunted down and killed like an animal, some piece of hope in the heart dies. Nothing is ever really the same. In some way, everything is diminished, always.

I think about the Christmas when "Happy Xmas (War Is Over) came out, listening to it in the dark sitting in my mom's car on the AM radio, waiting for someone to finish an errand. I didn't like the song at the time, I thought it was too simplistic and of course didn't like anything where I could hear Yoko. I didn't understand it. What do you mean? War isn't over just if you want it to be! Nothing is like that! You can't just want things and have them happen. By this time, everyone wanted the Vietnam War to be over, of course they did, it had been dragging on forever and continued to destroy our people and our country. Not to mention Vietnam.

Sitting and listening to this shit version of the song, looking at my nails sparkle in the lights, I hear it more fully, with my adult perspective. It is Christmas, he says, and what have you done? In this time when people are to reflect and think of the goodness that can be given, what have you done to make things better? War is over, if you want it to be badly enough. If you want it, want to find others who want to join with you, and you just keep trying. If you really, really want it, you can change things. I hear it now. It is a simple thought, and behind it a simple truth, the gravity of what it really means to make a commitment to something larger than yourself, for good greater than you will know.

I am older now than John when he died. All these December 8th days passed, and to come. But I am still learning and growing, in part because of what I saw and felt in him. This is part of the piece of hope that lives on.

It is chilly, clear, and dark when I leave the salon. I imagine him that night breathing in the night air as I am, crisp into the lungs, fresh, the feel of Christmas to come.