We walked slowly up and down the empty hallways which were painted off-white, of course. Some of the doorways were decorated with wrapping paper and tinsel or wreaths. One man’s door held a large picture of him in younger years. We sang carols, the old songs that would be familiar. The tunes that would bring back memories of another time, another life. Days of trimming trees with little children gathered round, “helping.” Years of baking cookies and school Christmas programs and the magic of Santa. Moments spent watching sweet childish faces beam with excitement on Christmas morning.
Tonight, in the nursing home, maybe a few precious memories were sparked in tired minds. Maybe the sound of those old familiar songs brought tears. Maybe they reminded someone of a joy that is no longer felt.
One woman, sitting on a seat on her walker, came to the hall, rolling herself along with little shuffling footsteps. She wanted to hear the music. She wanted to see our faces. She wanted to tell us how old she is–ninety-nine. She wanted to tell us that she used to do this, caroling with the children, coming to nursing homes to try and bring some Christmas cheer to less fortunate people, people who were near the end of life, who were physically weak, who were mentally tired, who were emotionally discouraged. She used to be one of the carolers. Now she is a resident, beaming at the sounds of the singing. Trying her best to stand up as a showing of her appreciation for this act.
Such a small thing, singing in a hallway.
And when I go to the nursing home, I leave, always, with overwhelming thankfulness that I can leave. I am grateful that I’m young, that I’m strong and I’m living some of the greatest years of my life. I think it’s okay to feel that way. To have a true appreciation of things that I might otherwise take for granted, like the ability to walk. Or a clear mind. Or children underfoot.
It helps me remember that even though this Christmas has been busier than I wanted and I have been way too focused on silly things, like trying to get Adelade to wear ruffled pants, the beauty of the Christmas story is that it reaches all of us. It reaches the toddler who won’t stay out of the Christmas tree. It reaches the frazzled mother and the stressed out dad who has one eye on his wallet all season. It reaches the empty nester who is learning to rethink her Christmas traditions and it reaches the tired old man who sits in a bed all day, looking out the same window. It reaches the ninety-nine year old woman who comes shuffling when she hears the carols being sung. It even reaches to the darkest corners in the darkest moments in the deepest sorrows. It reaches the nursing home at Christmas.
The Christmas story fits well with joy and sorrow. With elation and devastation. Because the story, the true story, is Hope personified. It is the reason we sing, even when we are old and memory fades and bodies quit. The angels sang a song on a quiet night in Bethlehem that rings true in our hearts on a quiet night in the nursing home. Christ is near. God is with us.
So, we can have peace, no matter what stage of life we’re in.
I pray those old carols brought some sweet memories to minds and a sweet peace to hearts tonight. While I walked those halls, I could almost hear the angels through the clear voices of the children. Glory to God in the Highest. Here, even here. He is near.
Joy to the World.