Silent Night


The weeks before Christmas were predictably hectic. I knew from past experience that there would be heavy demands on my time, but I had hoped that this year would be different. I wanted to be well organized—to have my shopping and Christmas preparations done far enough in advance that the pressures of my busy life would not interfere with the spirit of the Christmas season.

And this year was different—in fact, the pre-Christmas season presented more challenges than usual. As a member of the Tabernacle Choir, I had learned years ago that I must be ready to spend many hours at the Tabernacle at this time of year. The month of December is always crowded with special programs, extra rehearsals, and Christmas concerts. But this year, in addition to these activities, the choir was also preparing to leave on a concert tour to Israel on the day after Christmas! We had difficult music to learn which required several months of extra rehearsals. All of this, combined with my full-time work schedule and preparations for a work assignment following the choir’s tour, allowed me very little time for the joyful preparations for Christmas or for my family.

My widowed mother watched quietly as I tried to juggle my life in order to work everything in. I knew that she would like to have had me make more frequent visits, take her shopping once in a while, or just find the time to call on the phone more often. We always looked forward to having her come to dinner on Sundays, and she never complained about any lack of attention to her, but I knew that she was lonely and longed for companionship. Since my father died four years ago, there had been a great void in her life. They were eternal companions in every sense of the word. Whether working in the temple, beautifying their home, enjoying their children and grandchildren, or singing, they did it together! And now again, I knew that she was remembering the years gone by and those joyous Christmases with Dad. Those were times full of love and music as they sang together at many Christmas programs and family gatherings. And now she was alone.

My sister and I had helped Mother put up her Christmas tree and decorate her home for the holidays. We had done most of her shopping for her, but about two weeks before Christmas, Mother called, apologized for infringing on my busy schedule, and asked if I would mind taking her shopping for one afternoon. She wanted to add her personal touch to a few of the items we had already purchased. It was a welcome and delightful break from the frenzied schedule I had been keeping. We had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon together. The joy and the spirit of the season which I had not had time for before filled our hearts.

Just a few days after our afternoon together, Mother became ill with the flu. We were very concerned and kept a close watch on her at her home. She did not want to come and stay with us or with my sister, but insisted that she would be well soon. She apologized for being ill and for becoming a burden on us at such a busy time. After she suffered for several miserable days, her health seemed to improve, and we relaxed our vigil somewhat. She had predicted that she would be fine by Christmas, and that seemed to be the case.

The tempo and burdens of my life had only increased during the week that Mother was ill. It was three days before Christmas, the choir had just finished two Christmas concerts, I still had last-minute shopping to do, there were many projects to complete at the office, and in only four days we would be on our way to Israel. When my husband came into my office that afternoon, shut the door, and told me that Mother had passed away just an hour earlier, I had difficulty comprehending what he was saying. He had no explanations why this had happened—only the devastating news that she was gone. All that had been so important only minutes ago seemed to evaporate. I felt that time had stopped and that I had been suspended in some sort of vacuum.

For the next two days, my sisters and I went through the necessary motions and made preparations for Mother’s funeral. It was to be held the day after Christmas—the day the choir was leaving for Israel! Family members and friends enveloped us with love and concern, and we struggled to acknowledge the reality of what had happened. Under the circumstances, I had assumed I would not be able to make the trip to Israel; but very late one evening I received a telephone call telling me that arrangements had been made for me to travel and join the choir a few days later. I was so grateful for kind friends and their efforts in my behalf!

For the sake of the young children in the family as well as our own, we wanted Christmas to be as normal as possible. We continued to make preparations for our traditional Christmas Eve family dinner and for Christmas day, but we felt so empty—so alone. It just could not be the same! Each of us—and especially the children—felt the terrible emptiness and tried to understand why our mother and grandmother had been taken at this time.

Because of the holiday, we were advised to postpone having a viewing until just before the services, but the funeral directors invited us to come to the funeral home at any time the day before—Christmas day—and spend some time alone with Mother. Following our dinner on Christmas night, we left the children playing with their gifts and went to the funeral home.

We stood quietly around her casket and looked at our beautiful mother in her temple robes. She looked so serene, so happy. There was a spirit of peace and of love in that room—even one of happiness and joy. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the recent glorious reunion that must have taken place between my mother and father. I had the impression that if I listened carefully, I could again hear the angels singing as they did on that holy night long ago, and that the beautiful voices of my mother and father had joined that heavenly chorus. I imagined I could hear them singing, “Silent night! Holy night! … Sleep in heavenly peace.”

The understanding and comfort I had prayed for seemed to come to me as I stood there, and my worldly cares seemed far away. On that silent night, gathered with my loved ones, I thanked my Father in Heaven for that moment of heavenly peace.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown