Christmas happens to be one of my favorite times of the year; it’s an amazing time that fills many of us with Love, Happiness, and Joy. It’s a time get to together with our family and friends for dinners, drinks, exchanging gifts, and sharing stories. That being said, it can also be a very tough time for some. I know this past holiday season I had a number of friends and associates that were struggling because they had lost a family member or friend that year and dreaded spending their first Christmas without them.
My father died when I was 9 years old. It was one of the toughest years I remember growing up. At the time, my mother was the director of nursing at the Dearness Home in London. She worked shift work and was scheduled to work Christmas day. She struggled with how she was going to keep my brother Al, sister Leanne, and I busy for the day.
Our closest relatives were a few hours away so she made the decision to bring us to work with her. Our role for the day was to visit all the seniors that were shut in.
We entered each of their rooms singing a Christmas Carol and provided them with a chocolate treat that my mother made for them. We were greeted with a smile and the looks on each of their faces were priceless; many had tears in their eyes as we gave them a hug and wished them a Merry Christmas.
One lady in particular, who heard we were coming, was beaming with joy as we entered her room. Although she was toothless, her smile was infectious. When I gave her the chocolate treat she gave me the biggest hug and asked for another carol to be sung. It was getting close to the end of the day so we sang a few more as she began to share some stories about her life. She lost her childhood sweetheart, the only man she ever loved, in the war and never married or had any children. As she talked about her love for him, you could see the sparkle come back to her eyes.
She hugged me again and told us how sorry she was that we had lost our father a few months earlier. As we left her room, she said, “My name is Carrie Fairbanks, but you can call me Gram.”
That evening over dinner, we shared with Mom all the stories of the day and how much fun we had going from room to room meeting everyone. We couldn’t stop talking about the woman that wanted us to call her “Gram” and how sweet she was. That evening as we sat around the fire, we decided that we would adopt her as our Gram. The next day as Mom had to work again, she brought us back to ask Gram if we could adopt her into our family. I can still remember how her eyes filled with tears as she hugged us and whispered “of course”.
We were blessed to have Gram be part of our lives for the next 13 years. There were many Christmas/birthday celebrations, hockey/baseball games that she attended, while other times we would just go visit her or take her out for the day.
Our Mom was truly amazing and always seemed to know how to brighten our day. She lived by the message that was on a poster that she had on the back of her bedroom door “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” Mahatma Gandhi. With that message in mind, what started out to be a very tough Christmas turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmas’ we have ever had.
Even though the different holidays are an exciting time for many, we need to remember that there are others that are dreading being alone. If you happen to be struggling yourself as you are reading this, just remember that your greatest display of character actually comes when you are able to help someone else while you are going through your own storm.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!