Dallin Woodward, a cousin and dear friend of mine from Franklin, Idaho, loved music and lent his beautiful tenor voice as a youth to many Church and school functions. His trumpet playing could be heard the half-mile distance to our home on warm summer evenings. He enjoyed Christmas music most of all, especially “Silent Night.” Little did he know that the title to this carol would describe his own nights as well as his days for three-fourths of his life.
One day in early summer of 1928, Dallin experienced a severe headache that quickly worsened. Doctors came to his home and later confirmed he had the dread disease spinal meningitis. No miracle medicine in those days for Dallin, who was just 15 years old.
The local hospitals did not have adequate facilities for isolating patients with contagious diseases, so Dallin was confined to his bedroom at home, with only his father, mother, and doctor permitted to enter. It was several weeks before the fever finally broke, but even during the following month, visitors had to stay outside and visit through a window. Gradually his health improved, but the disease left him totally deaf.
During his recovery time, Dallin’s mother spent many hours each day helping him learn to adjust to his condition. Her patience and faith paid off, as Dallin was soon able to communicate with his many friends and family.
I will never forget Christmas Eve of 1928—the first Christmas after Dallin’s illness. My brother Ivan and I walked up the snow-covered lane to see him. As we visited with him and his parents, we heard the jangling of sleigh bells and the voices of carolers in the distance.
Soon the carolers stopped outside the home and began to sing. We continued talking with Dallin, thinking it would make him sad if he knew they were singing the Christmas carols he loved but couldn’t hear.
The last song they sang that night was “Silent Night,” Dallin’s favorite carol. As they began to sing the words, he rose from his chair, walked to the window, and stood motionless until they finished the last verse. He then returned to his chair, and with tears running down his cheeks, he quietly said, “The Lord has been good to me. He let me hear my favorite song one more time.”
Dallin had 45 more soundless Christmases, eventually surrounded by his much-loved wife, Myrtle, and their four children. The simple words of “Silent Night,” which testify so powerfully of the birth of our Savior, became like scripture to Dallin and continually reaffirmed his faith in Him who said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). The memory of Dallin’s not-so-silent night lingers long in the hearts of those of us who witnessed it.