There is something that never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. But this year, I almost walked out.
I love singing. For the past five years, I have always been a part of some ensemble: glee club, church choir, shower soloist. Despite my inability to read music, I do feel that I’ve grown as a singer by leaps and bounds (especially since my benchmark is when my Glee partner in crime, Teresa, had to sing the correct notes into my ear 😉 ). Add this to my love for volunteering, and one can easily see why caroling at a local nursing home is so enriching for me.
However, today was different.
As I walked around the large facility trying to find my friends, I had flashbacks to thoughts I had earlier this week “Mom is too young for this”. “I’m too young for this”. “We just did this”, as my Nana died four years ago, after spending many years in a nursing home. Realizing I was the first one there, I walked outside, unsure that I could stay.
I have never had a “problem” with nursing homes. Some of my earliest memories include visiting the elderly. When my sister and I were very young, my mom would take us to the nursing home across the street from our church. We befriended a woman as well as a wonderful couple whose family lived far away. I think my mom liked to do this, as her parents had already passed. It also made a mark on my sister and I, as we still incorporate volunteering into our lives. Any recollection into my love of service starts with these moments of visiting Rose, Nettie &Al.
Maybe it isn’t any wonder why today was so hard.
As we strolled around and strummed the guitar, we were met with smiles, applause, and a few hecklers. When we pulled up to one room, a lady wheeled herself to the door. We asked if she had any requests, and she said “White Christmas”.
As we sang she broadly smiled, clasped her hands, and silently cried. Two of my friends began to share in her tears. After we finished, I went up to Nina to hold her hand and wish her a Merry Christmas.
Regaining our composure, we made our way into the dining room where a large group was waiting for us. In the front row, I recognized someone. As this man proudly belted along with us, I realized that he had danced me around this very dining room two years ago. Now, he was in a wheelchair.
Before we left, I went to stand beside him, and I said “I remember you!” He replied with “Me too. Thank you.”
After I left, the words of “White Christmas” kept ringing in my head. “Just like the ones I used to know” , invoked pain. I want some of those carefree days back, the ones I used to know with levity, laughter, and light. I’m sure the residents of the nursing home want that too.
What can I do?
Just what I did today. Sing through it; reach out to others in service and in my own need; cry when need be; escape to breathe when I’m too overwhelmed, but remain as fearless as I can, so that I can find those moments of joy too.
And maybe, “Just like the ones I used to know” can become “just like the ones I’ve always known”.