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Amy Crider is an award-winning playwright. She wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.

I spent my teens in a rural area of upstate New York in the 1970s. We watched a lot of PBS. At Christmastime, the local PBS station ran the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” starring Alastair Sim over and over again. I watched it every time.

Originally released as “Scrooge,” the film was directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst and written by Noel Langley. My family watched it so many times that we’d notice every detail. How Scrooge ignores the blind man with his dog in the opening and pets the dog in the end, a wordless moment tying the beginning and end together.

The part of the movie my late mother loved best is how completely giddy Scrooge is at the end, telling Bob Cratchit that he’s going to raise his salary and help his family. Sim plays this with a complete lack of inhibition, with incomparable abandon, laughing like he’s on drugs. He’s high as a kite, because he’s been saved. My mom would reenact this scene, quoting it verbatim.

When Scrooge is with the ghost of Christmas future, he ends up seeing his own tombstone. He collapses onto it in sobs. If you’re watching passively, not giving too much thought to it, you assume he’s sobbing because he’s afraid to die. I certainly always thought that. But later in life, I had an experience that made me understand what was going on in a whole new way.

In December 1992, I visited my mother for Christmas. About a year earlier, I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was taking lithium, which in my case had no impact on my symptoms, but I trusted it and assumed I’d be OK.

There is something about driving a long distance that is triggering for me. I drove about eight hours from upstate New York to see her in Ohio. I couldn’t sleep for days. As my mind tumbled into exhaustion, I became increasingly paranoid, not unusual in mania as one gets older.

After the visit to my mom’s, the journey continued with another long drive to my father’s. Again, there was no sleep. At last, I returned to my home, to find that an elderly relative of my (then) husband’s in New England had just died. Immediately it was back in the car for another five-hour drive.

We got through the funeral. Still no sleep. By Jan. 3, I hadn’t slept in nine nights. The paranoia was gaining and it was no longer possible to hide. I thought people were going to kill me.

My flight from reality was complete as I ran outside in the snow, away from the imagined murderers. My husband got me to the hospital early in the morning, and I was admitted.

We rode up an elevator to the psychiatric unit. I had never been hospitalized before. It all seemed so nice and plush, I felt like I was in heaven’s waiting room.

But I was afraid of everyone, including my husband.

Here’s the heart of the matter: It’s not because I was simply afraid to die that I reacted so crazily. It was something else, something deeper. It was because, in my paranoid state, I imagined I had done many terrible things in my life. I was overwhelmed with guilt. And I was afraid if I died, I’d never have the chance to make up for all the terrible things I had done. I’d never have the chance to begin again and be a good person. No one knew this was what I was afraid of.

And so in the movie, Scrooge flings himself upon his tombstone, sobbing. It isn’t because he’s afraid to die. It’s because he’s horrified that it’s too late. He’s learned his lesson. He knows he’s been wrong, he knows how horrible he has been. He wants to change now. He wants to start over and right all the wrongs he’s done. But when he sees his grave, he’s horrified to think: it’s all too late. He can never start over. Pleading, he asks the spirit if there is any point in this ghostly visitation.

And then he wakes. He’s alive.

He dances, he sings, he stands on his head.

That’s why Scrooge is as high as a kite. I never truly understood that, until I experienced that same fear. He’s ecstatic because it isn’t too late after all. His worst fear didn’t come true. He can live out the lesson he has learned.

That is redemption and its euphoria. It is an extraordinary lesson, to be alive and start over. And we are born again every day that we wake up and can start over. In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”