It wasn't anything I hadn't done before. Singing in a chorale for elderly residents of a local nursing home is something I did for over a year. Every month, we'd go and sing five-foot-two standards and other songs that folks in their 80s would remember and enjoy.
Today was different, though. Today I went with members of the First Parish youth groups who had never done that before. I wasn't sure how they'd feel about it once we were actually standing in front of elderly residents, some bound by wheelchairs and the ravages of dementia. I wasn't really thinking about how I'd feel about it because I was focused on the kids.
I hung out and sang at the back of the group letting the kids have the spotlight since this was their moment and a time of social outreach made more safe by being with each other.
At the end of our "performance" I went out to chat with the front row of residents, all of whom took my hand and thanked me. They told me how much they enjoyed having us and singing along. They loved having the kids there.
One man in a wheelchair, whom I found out later was crying through some of the songs, told me that this was the best day he'd ever had.
I moved to his right and took the hand of a woman who was also in a wheelchair. She looked in my eyes and was trying to get the words out but was having difficulty putting a sentence together. But the look in her eyes told me that she was grateful and was touched by the visit.
I didn't want her to struggle any longer and I knew what she had in her heart. I instinctively kissed her forehead and she rested her head on my shoulder for just a moment. It was then that I felt what I hadn't since my mother died 19 months ago today.
What I felt surprised me but felt so familiar at the same time. I can only describe it as a moment of complete spiritual connectivity. It wasn't a stranger in a wheelchair resting her head on my shoulder, it was my mother. It felt like I was physically with my mother in that instant. She was there, connecting through the touch of another in a moment of pure love.
When my mother visited my grandmother in the nursing home she always stopped to visit others, especially those who had no other visitors. I remembered the times I went with my mother. We'd walk in the front door of my grandmother's nursing home and there they were. All lined up, seemingly just waiting for my mom.
She would always be beyond cheerful (in her usual upbeat, positive, I-love-people way) as she stopped and talked to each one. She remembered their stories and even their wardrobes. If anyone had a new pair of earrings on, a new sweater, or even a new hairdo mom would always notice. She would ask about their latest doctor's visit and knew them all by name.
I loved those moments with my mother. I was so proud and amazed at her big heart. They loved my mother and my mother's spirit.
I had forgotten about mom's honest and sincere connection to these lonely people who probably had no other visitors until she came again. That was, until I kissed that woman's forehead today.
I've been pushing Christmas to the back of my brain since my mother died last year. I don't look forward to writing cards, decorating the tree, or wrapping gifts. I just want it over with. Moving through the tasks as I do at my job. Meeting a deadline so I can move on to the next project.
That all stopped today. Maybe it was the meaning of Christmas that finally hit me. Doing something that brings me back to the true spirit of the season. Maybe I was just filled with joy and pride of the kids I mentor every Sunday morning.
Or maybe my mother found me, in the corner of my heart that I share with her. Reaching out to someone who can't find the words but doesn't need to. Meeting at a place more important than spoken language. A place that is love, simple and pure.
Thanks, mom, for teaching me a great lesson. If I ever end up needing to be in a nursing home, I know you will be there with me through the kindness of others.