Kamalla Rose Kaur
The residents of the assisted living complex had just started to eat their supper in the dining room when the carolers from a local church arrived. Twenty singers filed in. They hugged the wall, looking quite uncomfortable. They kept their eyes glued to their sheet music, with their voices raised in a loud cheery fa la la la la li-la-la-la! Then they filed out again and headed down the halls, dreaming of a white Christmas.
“That was fast!” one of the diners announced to no one in particular.
Conversation resumed. The caroler’s songs faded into background music as the visiting church members journeyed around the facility, oblivious to the fact that, with the exception of two hospice patients, all the residents were in the dining room eating.
The second group of carolers was smaller and arrived as dessert was being served. Their singing was far less confident, but their eye contact was better. Many of the residents put down their spoons, and settled back to listen. For a moment it was a beautiful sight, a happy sort of night with sleighbells ringing; a winter wonderland.
Then that second group of carolers also filed out of the dining room and began touring the empty hallways; fa la la la la li-la-la-la!
The residents slowly picked up their spoons again, and ate their fudge sundaes.
Before leaving, that second group of carolers returned to the dining room, and the spoons of the residents returned to the tables.
“Silent night, holy night.” they sang weakly but….
all became calm and all became bright. Residents relaxed further back into their chairs and wheelchairs. Many closed their eyes as they listened to the hymn, or they sang along.
“Merry Christmas everyone!” the minister of the second group exclaimed. “We are from the such and such church. Happy holidays!”
“Merry Christmas!” most of the residents responded sincerely.
Then the carolers left and the spoons got lifted again. For a long time the residents peacefully enjoyed their melting ice cream.
After dessert, a pleasant staff person announced that she had lit the fire in the center’s livingroom, and she was making popcorn, and the movie was going to be “White Christmas,” at 8pm.
The residents who were able began to stand up, grab hold of their walkers and head towards the diningroom doors. The residents who could wheel themselves in their wheelchairs followed, while the staff helped those who needed help.
Most of the residents went directly to bed, of course, but about 15 arrived in the livingroom for the movie at 8pm. They settled into, or were transferred into, comphy chairs, and bags of popcorn were handed out to them.
The third group of carolers arrived about 20 minutes into the movie. They were the biggest group; 40 choir singers from a big popular church.
“I’m dreaming of a white christmas!” they sang in perfect harmony, posing in the lobby.
“Me too!” an old man yelled at them from the livingroom causing his fellow movie watchers to erupt in laughter. Much encouraged, the choir just sang louder. Then they took off down the halls, in full voice; blissfully unaware that the elders were tired and that two people in the building were very close to death.
For a little while the movie watchers in the livingroom could hear the singing of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye again, but soon the church choir was back in the lobby singing about being jolly and about holly.
“Oh FA LA LA li LAH, li La, La, LAAAA!” screeched an ancient woman from the far end of the livingroom. Her voice carried very well but her sarcasm was lost on the church choir.
At this point, a staff member took charge.She discreetly turned off the movie with the remote, and waited politely until the end of the song. Then she thanked the choir warmly for their visit.
The choir took a moment to compose themselves before singing their final piece.
“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”
That church choir sang it like angels.
And then they were gone.
The residents in the livingroom sat together for a long spell that night, in deep and easy silence, before they finally struggled on their own, or were assisted, to their beds.