Human Dignity

A New Kind of Christmas

Nine days before Christmas, I strolled along the mall corridor enjoying the carols from the piped-in speaker system. Feeling a part of the family of shoppers, I soaked up the mirth displayed in the children’s glad expressions. The family scenes evoked happy memories in me. They would warm my spirit during my quiet time alone that evening.

Pausing at various shop windows, I pondered the past years with my late husband and four children. There had been much to do during those rushed but happy times.

The children, now adults, lived miles away. Cynthia and Nora would not arrive home until Christmas afternoon, so I would find a way to savor a Christmas Eve alone. I would sit in my family room in the tree lights’ glow and ponder family memories.

Looking at the mall clock, I saw it was still early, so I continued to window shop. It felt good to see the happy-faced children strolling or skipping beside their parents. I purchased a new CD of carols to listen to on Christmas Eve before I went to church. I would then phone my sons and daughters to say goodnight.

Suddenly, a woman called to me: “Ma’am, Ma’am, may I talk with you?” 

I turned and recognized the young woman from church. I asked if she was talking to me. 

“Yes! We both go to the church on Wilson Avenue,” the red-haired woman said. “I’m Ginger Lawrence. I’ve seen you alone at church. Would you join my family on Christmas Eve? It would be a favor for us.”

I introduced myself and told her I was adjusting to widowhood. Ginger said her husband, Dirk, had died earlier that year from a long illness. She explained that she was alone with her two daughters—Kate (four) and Megan (six). “Could you be our grandmotherly visitor on Christmas Eve? My parents will be with us on Christmas afternoon for a few days.”

The idea of spending Christmas Eve with her to please her children warmed my heart. Memories of young motherhood soothed me. Joy at pleasing the youngsters ignited my maternal feelings.

Ginger said she had to hurry home because her neighbor was tending the girls. Knowing I would join her family, she wrote down her name, address, phone number, and driving directions to her house.

I tucked the directions in my purse, and peace warmed me. I had longed for a family Christmas. I silently thanked God for meeting Ginger.

As I drove home, I softly hummed my favorite carols.  

At five o’clock on Christmas Eve, I pulled into the driveway at Ginger’s white bungalow. The Nativity scene brightened the front window. When Ginger opened the door, warm air rushed out as her wide smile greeted me. Kate and Megan—each with red hair like their mother—shook my hand.

Megan beamed. “You’ll be our new grandmother tonight, Mama said!”

“Goody!” Kate said, clapping.

I sat in the living room where a fragrant tree glowed. The children’s happy expressions reminded me of my children at their age.

After Ginger’s tasty, roast chicken supper, we rode to the church for the 7pm worship. There, peace flowed as we celebrated Jesus’ birth with prayer and carols.

Afterward at Ginger’s home, we sat at the round kitchen table. The scent of hot chocolate filled the air as we sipped it and crunched crisp cookies. The girls’ voices and Ginger’s soft words helped me feel woven into the fabric of their happy family.

Later, we sat on the sofa in the glow of the tree lights as cherished carols sounded from the CD player. Ginger and I took turns reading passages aloud in the account of the first Christmas from the second chapter of Luke.

After the girls were tucked into bed after prayers, I thanked Ginger for our family Christmas Eve. 

Although it was our first one without our husbands, caring family contentment eased away loneliness, making way for joy. Fresh peace blossomed. 

Loving as Christ Loved
When we’re children, we look forward to Christmas with such anticipation that it’s difficult to contain the excitement. As we grow older and have our own families, that anticipation and excitement take on a new and special meaning. We get to see Christmas through our children’s eyes. We open Advent calendars, bake cookies, have parties, and sing along to Christmas music. We derive immense joy out of giving gifts and seeing their smiles.
But then, as life marches on and children grow and have their own families, many elderly people find themselves alone and missing those times when they were needed and wanted. This is most prevalent at Christmas.
Have you ever heard someone say they’re dreading the holidays? We probably all have. Those who dread them are usually living alone, have families far away, or maybe have no family at all. They dread the holidays because they’re lonely. They see a joy in others that they don’t have. They see a joy in others that they long for. And sometimes this loneliness is crushing.
This Christmas, let us follow Ginger’s example and adopt a welcoming spirit to those around us—especially the elderly—who may not have family or friends. Over the next few weeks, let us open our eyes and pay attention to the people at church, to our neighbors, to the elderly in a local nursing home, and to our coworkers. Chances are, we can all identify one person in our lives who needs some extra love and attention this Christmas.
Then do something kind for that person to make him or her feel valued.
One of the worst feelings in the world is being forgotten. This Christmas, let us remember Paul’s teaching to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.”
Let us open our hearts and our homes this Christmas season, and let us share the love brought to the world by the Christ Child.

My friendship with Ginger grew. We celebrated the children’s birthdays together. We often took the children on picnics and talked about the good times we had when our families were together. On sunny days we went for walks to the park after Sunday worship. In the cooler winter weather, we enjoyed family visits in each other’s home.

We prayed together and thanked God that we had memories to share about our beloved husbands. We prayed with thanks that our dear husbands were with the Lord. We thanked the Lord that we would someday be together again. Until then, we would worship God as a family.        

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About the author

Audrey Carli

Audrey Carli, a widowed mother of four, lives in Iron River, Michigan. She writes for family publications, teaches creative writing classes, and tutors students. She has authored three books: Jimmy’s Happy Day, When Jesus Holds Our Hand, and Valiant Victory.