(a true holiday story from the wonderful surprises that come from parish ministry, which are particularly precious to me in these last weeks)
It’s a scroogy little half-coal holiday party
in the Alzheimer’s unit — the real present
is that rent will stay the same in the New Year.
But all the same –the egg sandwiches,
cheese and crackers, meat balls, chocolate cake,
look tired, resentful,
having come out of their way to sit
under the tattered decorations.
Even the staff are in grays and blues
beginning to look not a lot like Christmas.
Many of the residents, without family
and not really understanding
that this is meant to be special for them,
because no one has bothered to unwrap
the very sweetest present –
memory — the way it must be for them
opened again and again,
have gone conveniently off to bed early
leaving empty tables to be cleaned.
Then the man who was a church organist
for some thirty years is coaxed
to the upright piano,
and, though he thinks he cannot play,
when his fingers touch the keys,
black and white with carols hidden inside,
(and a miscellaneous santa’s list
of other holiday songs)
his face changes, turns rudolf bright
and all the angels,
and we shut our eyes and fly
to a concert hall and a jazz club,
several sanctuaries, a ball room, bethlehem.