Monday, December 17, 2012
Caroling for Christmas
In light of recent events. I thought it might be appropriate to dust off a Christmas memory from several years ago. It was a time in our family when things seemed a bit bleak. Although we had experienced a lot of tender mercies, our family was still grieving over the loss of our father. As many of you know, he suffered from a rare medical condition, and during a moment when he was very much not himself, he took his own life.
As a result, moments like the holiday season were often painful reminders of who was missing in our clan. Healing had begun, but our hearts were still very tender. And that year, my brother, who had served a valiant mission in Canada, had returned home. We wanted that Christmas to be a special time, and yet it was still a challenge to feel the Christmas Spirit.
That year, while my mother searched for a job as a dental assistant, she had accepted employment as a CNA at a local nursing home. The lonely plight of some of the residents of that facility inspired her to come up with a plan to help us all feel better.
The afternoon of Christmas Eve, we gathered together to make Christmas cookies. At first we thought we were making them for our family to enjoy. Then our mother explained that we would be taking them in to the nursing home residents. She went on to say that we would also be singing Christmas carols to these people. For a moment, we all looked at each other in shock. Singing had always been something special in our family. For years we had performed together on various programs with our father, who had possessed a beautiful, deep bass voice. Since his death, the music inside of us had withered.
A few months after his death, I had attempted singing on a Christmas program, thinking I could handle it. This was a bad choice. Ignoring a quiet prompting that warned it was too soon to try something like this, I agreed to perform on the program for a Christmas dinner. I managed to get halfway through the number, then was hit with a wave of overwhelming grief that prevented me from finishing the performance. It was a horrible experience and I hadn't been able to sing since that night. I'll admit that I silently balked at the idea of singing Christmas carols in public. But when my mother handed me a guitar as everyone else gathered plates of Christmas cookies, I didn't have the heart to say, "NO!"
We loaded up in a couple of cars and drove across town to the nursing home. On the way, I offered a silent prayer for help, uncertain that I could come through on my mother's request. When we arrived, I still felt extremely nervous, but obediently clutched my guitar and followed behind everyone else inside the building.
We began by handing out the Christmas cookies to the staff and the nursing home residents. That act alone brought smiles to lonely, suffering faces, and their reaction softened my heart. I could see that most of these people hadn't received Christmas visitors. Their joy over our arrival melted through the icy grief that had engulfed my heart. My mother signaled that it was time for a Christmas carol, and I bravely shouldered my guitar.
At first I thought that I would simply accompany my sisters, brother, and mother. But as the familiar words rang out, I found myself joining in with a soft harmony. As I sang with my family that night, a soothing peace nestled in my heart. We advanced from room to room, making certain that everyone received Christmas cookies, and one or two heartfelt carols. Tremendous healing took place that night as we witnessed a Christmas miracle we hadn't anticipated. And when we returned home, our hearts warmed from the glow of that small act of service, Christmas didn't seem quite so painful. A quiet feeling of joy replaced the grief, helping us to know that eventually, all would be well.
I've never forgotten the happiness I felt that night. It was a reminder that when we reach out to help others, our own sorrow fades. It's the best way I know to experience the true joy of Christmas.