When you can’t be together at Christmas



Will you have—and seize—the opportunity to reach out to lonely folks spending holidays alone? ©Thinkstock

I couldn’t get my widowed mother off my mind on Christmas Eve. She lived over a thousand miles away and there was no way I could leave my husband and four children to ease her loneliness on her first Christmas without Dad. But we each talked to her by phone. She seemed cheered about going to the nearby shopping mall to do some last minute browsing before attending the Christmas Eve church service at 7 p.m.

Mom said, “At the mall, there’ll be music in the background. The decorations will be bright and cheerful. I’ll have a cup of tea while sitting at a table in front of the shop. It’ll be enjoyable to watch smiling children go by with their parents. The decorations will be bright and cheerful. Some people will be alone like I am—so I’ll not feel alone!”

After we returned from church, our family watched Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” on television; I thought about Mom. I prayed for her to have an unexpected surprise that would make her holiday special. Her small town was friendly and most people knew each other. She could have a peaceful time at the mall chatting with others. She would visit with people after church, too. But I knew she would miss Dad and shed some lonely tears. I hoped the tears would be few and smiles would replace them.

I awakened early on Christmas morning and phoned Mom. I knew she would be awake early. She wrote poetry for her enjoyment and expressing thoughts.

I thought about Mom. I prayed for her to have an unexpected surprise that would make her holiday special.

She answered the phone with such cheer, I felt inspired. “Honey,” she said. “I had a family Christmas last night!”

Joy sang in me. “How, Mom?”

She said she had been sitting, having tea and a cookie at a mall shop when Cindy Mitchell and her 6- and 7-year-old daughters, Carrie and Tina, stopped to chat. “Cindy’s husband died from cancer as I mentioned and she longed for a family Christmas. Her parents were driving from Montana but were delayed by a snowstorm. So they took refuge in a motel. Cindy asked me to go to church with them as her parents had planned to do. She also asked me to join them afterward in their home for Christmas Eve snacks. So I did. It was glorious! I had a family Christmas, after all. And so did Cindy and her children. They hugged me good-bye when I left. We’ll visit again in their home and in mine. Her parents will be there by noon today.”

“Mom, in church last evening I shut my eyes and closed my hand like I’d be holding yours. And you got hugged by that young family who needed you as you needed them.”

Sharing friendship can lead to family-like affection.

The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who lived until 1882, wrote: “Talk not of wasted affection; affection never was wasted.”

We realized caring hearts link people.  Despite our loneliness, Christmas can become a cheerful time when we connect and show love to others.

AUDREY CARLI is a freelance writer from Michigan.


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