Remembering Christmas

November 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Kathleen Brown –

The techno tree stood on a maple table in the den. An unlikely hero, less than two feet tall counting the motorized revolving base, it thrust stiff green branches into the darkness of the room. A Christmas tree totally unadorned save for Fiber-optic lights that at the flip of a switch glowed in changing colors from the tip of each branch.

My sister gave the tree to my parents in the hope it would brighten this holiday dimmed by Alzheimer’s. But as I went to their home each day to help Dad care for Mama, I saw no signs this year would be better than last.

A year ago, Dad and I wrapped gifts, lit lights, and hung ornaments on a small, fragrant fir tree. I draped a white sheet over a side table and there, on 250-thread count snow, I arranged the old figures around the shaggy stable. Joseph held a pottery lantern in his upraised hand. Mary gazed on her sleeping Son. Even the donkey and the sad-eyed cow looked to the manger where Jesus, Light of the World, dozed in the flickering rays of Joseph’s lantern.

But Mama had forgotten about the stable and the Baby. And the gifts evoked so many questions, I finally put them out of sight. We took the tree down Christmas afternoon.

So this year, until the gift of the funky little tree, we made no Christmas preparations.

Almost forgotten, the tree sat dark until late evening on one of Mama’s difficult days. Her face still wearing the anger that had propelled her through the afternoon, she perched crooked and stiff on a chair at the kitchen table.

Dad and I sat with her. Our spirits were brittle with fatigue and the house was chill with despair. Perhaps it was desperation that turned Dad’s gaze away from the heaviness that shrouded the table. Abruptly he rose and walked toward the den.

“Where are you going?” Mama’s voice was hoarse and hard. She half stood then sat again and watched Dad walk to the table where the metal tree stood. He said nothing, only bent down and flipped the switch on the tree’s plastic base. From the Fiber-optic branches, tiny beams of color, delicate as starlight, ventured out across the room.

With a tiny hum, the tree turned ever so slowly. And ever so slowly, Mama relaxed. Her frown melted away and her shoulders sagged into the back of the chair.

“It’s a Christmas tree, honey.” Dad’s voice was low and soft. “Do you like it? It’s a Christmas tree.”

Just as softly, I began to sing. “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches….”

The old German carol. My mother’s favorite. As a child, I waited each Christmas for Mama to hear “her” carol playing on the radio. She’d stop and sing along every time, lifting her chin and raising her eyes to a long ago past. When the music ended, she always said the same words: “We learned that song in school.” It was like a story to me—Mama’s singing and her words.

Peace. Happiness.

That was Christmas, Mama taught me, using only her memories and the words of her favorite carol.

Apparently, not even Alzheimer’s could steal that remembrance from her. Somehow, evoked by the techno tree with its sweet hypnotic light, the melody of the old carol had survived in Mama’s memory, like a gift still wrapped in bright hope.

“O fir tree dark, O fir tree fair…” I sang on to her. Then at the end, “You learned that song in school, right?”

Here, in the December of her life, unaware, Mama reminded us what the season is about.

Peace, the heart of Christmas. A tree. A Gift. The sweetest story. The oldest, the eternal carol.

Glory in the highest.

About Kathleen Brown

  • Advertisement

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Prove You\'re Human: *