A Christmas story


The Ghost of Christmases past paid me a visit last night, leaving me more than a little blue and Scrooge like.

After five minutes of tears and reflections on holidays gone by, I pulled myself together enough to write a donation to the home that so lovingly cared for my husband Richard prior to his move into hospice.

Afterwards, I tried reading for a while, nibbling on Brie cheese and crackers.

But I remained restless, so I searched instead for something good on TV.

There was nothing.

Not even Christmas music.

So where was my rerun of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when I needed it most?

Shutting off the Christmas lights trimming the front door, I saw even the weatherman had let me down.

His empty promises of a white Christmas were quickly washing away in the cold rain.

Surrendering finally to the fog, Tucker the terrier and my matronly corgi Maddie escorted me back to the drafty bedroom for a long winter’s nap.

Once the long canine duet of snoring subsided, I drifted off to sleep.

At 4am I suddenly heard beautiful bells, ringing louder and louder as I began to wake.

Sweet sounds of softly spoken words were also in the distance, with the familiar French accent of a dear friend of Richard’s. But I was too slow to pick up the phone before my answering machine did the honors.

I was however awake enough to hear the last few words of his salutation.

“And I give you a kiss!”

I’m thinking Richard was behind that message from Paris, I told the dogs this morning.

His surprise Christms gifts from work trips to France were always the very best.

My little clan nodded in agreement, and each then kissed my hand.

I in turn, gave each of the dogs a big hug and a bite of my Christmas croissant, smiling.

Out of the fog

I’ve been walking in a fog much of the last week.

It’s been a precarious journey at times, not always seeing what’s ahead of me on the path.

Perhaps the same could be said of the last year, since my husband went into hospice and passed away last Christmas.

But this season I am rediscovering and reinventing what the holidays mean to me.

My spirit remains, but traditions have been replaced with new paths to take.

For example, yesterday I was thinking why not nine holes of golf this Christmas Eve?

With our December thaw, I’ve heard the local golf course had to turn away 200 eager players.

All working towards the goal of playing golf every single month of the year, at least once.

A truly noble and formidable challenge in the northern plains.

But it seems this morning the fog has lifted and been replaced by a fresh and sparking snowfall.

And this one’s sticking around for the holidays.

So since I’m flexible.

And resilient.

I’m opting instead for snow shoes on my path this Christmas Eve.

And what a beautiful and starry night it truly will be.

A birthday like no other

Today is my husband Richard’s birthday.

I like to think it was a good one for him, in spite of his hospice situation. I do know I saw some smiles on that still handsome face this morning.

We greeted friends, family and staff with holiday cupcakes. The wise hospital chaplain stopped by again to extend birthday wishes as well.

Richard was serenaded by two music therapists with beautiful voices, one with a guitar. A small hospital room soon made rich with Irish lullabies, Christmas carols and old Beatle tunes.

Richard appeared to enjoy them all and was particularly at peace listening to a duet of “Silent Night.”

“Let if Be,” written by Paul McCartney, was my favorite and also the most emotional for the rest of us. Particularly the first two lines:

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me…”

My husband’s beloved mother’s name was Mary.

So perfect, I thought.

What a gift.

The magic of music

My husband Richard loves music. Rock and roll, opera, classics, and songs sung by Irish artists.

Today my husband looked content as he listed to a beautiful rendition of “The Nutcracker Suite” on public radio.

His arms raised briefly as the music filled the hospital room. Almost as if he was ready to
lead the orchestra.

Richard always believed it would have been great to be a symphony conductor.

Later as the chaplain visited with us, my daughter recalled how she and Richard would love to listen together to the music of the Irish singer, Enya.

On her phone she quickly located Enya’s song, “Only Time.”

Their special favorite.

She played the familiar melody for Richard, holding the phone close to his ear.

His eyes brightened, just as her eyes moistened.

I believe Richard even smiled.

I do know the chaplain, my daughter, and I did.