Matt, my little math whiz, has been giving me a daily “count-down” to Christmas since sometime in early November. That was just last week; right? This is one of those years that I’ve had to boil it down to the basics, focusing on a handful of meaningful traditions rather than a “mall full” of activity.
“Traditions” gain their place by fulfilling that deepest need for spiritual and emotional connection. Ours range from secret stocking stuffing to “Seussical” graham cracker houses (who has time to make ginger bread?!) to Christmas light walks through our neighborhood and our Advent readings to… it’s a big list. Some we’ve done “forever” in kid years; others are new fits, filling a place in our hearts as if they’ve always been there.
Our newest tradition began last year when my Grandma Mary had her first Christmas as a resident of Highbanks Care Center here on the north end of Columbus, Ohio. That’s a whole story in itself: adjustments, kindnesses, fear, and compassion… The abridged version is that this is nothing that she’d planned on for her life. But, she’s really looking forward to Christmas caroling tomorrow morning. She probably won’t remember that her great-grandchildren, our dog Lily, and at least one of my sisters and I are showing up for the “event” tomorrow, but she’s been aglow this whole month knowing that we’re going to repeat the fun of last year.
My grandma’s reliable alto voice graced many a church choir. She lost a lot of what used to be essential in her life when grandpa, dad and mom died a few years ago. She left her Florida home, her church and the hospital at which she was a faithful volunteer to live nearer to her remaining family. A crystallization of priorities…
Losing her mobility was unfathomable for a woman with a mile-a-day walking habit. But she lost that too with a hip fracture at age ninety… No longer able to choose when to go where, she became dependent on the kindnesses of others.
How difficult it is to be relegated to “receiving” when one is used to contributing in so many ways!
So, we took her Christmas caroling last year, door-to-door within her care center. Grandma wore her favorite Christmas sweater, sang favorite music that is thankfully still hard-wired into her brain, and simply beamed as her littlest great-granddaughters handed out candy to her fellow residents.
She loved the joyful singing. She loved being enfolded by family…
She also loved being a giver again. Grandma told me how people thanked her in the following weeks. The residents thanked her for sharing her family with them. Grandma smiled because, while she can no longer send cards and wrap pretty packages, she could still give a gift to others. That was the gift that makes caroling with Grandma a tradition we will keep.