By Pat Nelson Bair
This is the seventh of 10 essays selected to be published in the Deseret News annual Christmas writing contest, “Christmas I Remember Best.”
It had been a busy time of year, even though most of the Christmas presents had been purchased early and carefully hidden away. It wouldn’t take much to please our three small children, the oldest being only 4.
To help with family expenses, my husband had taken an extra job at a department store for the holiday rush. Now all that was left was last-minute baking. A good thing, since our checking account showed there could be no more trips to the store.
I was feeling good about our planning, when the telephone rang. “Hello, Sister Bair, did you remember that tomorrow we take Relief Society to the nursing home?”
I had completely forgotten — or maybe I just didn’t want to remember. Christmas is such a happy time, and the nursing home always seemed so depressing. Oh, it was clean and adequate, I suppose, but it seemed cold and lonely.
As I hurriedly set up for my lesson the next day, some of the sisters were already waiting for us, and the nurses were bringing in those in wheelchairs.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” The opening song seemed to stick in my throat as I looked at these, my sisters. Is Christmas a time of joy to them or will it be just another lonely day? We would never forget a child at Christmas: Christmas often seems to be for children. But then, aren’t we all God’s children?
I can’t remember much of what I said as I retold for those lonely sisters the story of that first Christmas, because these words kept echoing in my mind: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
Our Relief Society presidency had made some small pendants for each of the sisters, and after the meeting we gave them the small tokens. Then we visited the rooms of those who could not come to us.
As we began to leave, an idea popped into my head, and the next think I knew I was in the office talking to the head nurse. “Ma’am, do you have any people here who never have visitors or never receive gifts at Christmas? I would like to adopt one as our family’s grandparent for the day.”
“Which one would you like?” she asked gratefully.
“Oh, I really don’t care, but preferably one who enjoys small children.”
“I know just the one, if you don’t mind having a gentleman. Come follow me.”
We walked down the hall and entered a room with four elderly gentlemen. “Eddie, the nurse said quietly, “I have someone I’d like you to meet.” His blue eyes told me he was still young in spirit and anxiously longing for love.
“The young lady would like to bring her family over on Christmas Day to spend a little time with you,” the nurse explained.
“Spend some time with me? But why? Do you know me?”
“No,” I replied. “Not until now. But I’d like to. My small children would love to have you as their adopted grandpa for Christmas.”
“You’ve made me the happiest man alive,” he replied emotionally, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
My heart seemed to burst with enthusiasm as I gathered my children around me later and told them of our new friend. “Mom, can we take him some presents?” my oldest one asked. Then I realized we had no money to buy him anything.
“I think so,” I answered. “Would you like to make him something?” Even if we couldn’t buy him anything, we could take him some baked goods. My husband and children shared my enthusiasm as we decorated cookies with a special bit of love. “If only I could buy a few things,” I kept thinking.
Finally, I returned a gift I had earlier purchased and exchanged it for one that cost $5 less. Now I had $5 extra to spend on Eddie! It wasn’t much, but we really enjoyed this Christmas shopping.
About 11:00 Christmas morning found us at the nursing home, with each of the children taking a favorite new toy to show Eddie. As we walked in, we discovered Eddie had been waiting by the door for some time. “I was afraid you’d forgotten me,” he said.
We shared our gifts and time with this wonderful man, and he in turn shared his memories of far-off Germany and the missionaries who had brought him the gospel. He told us of bringing his family to Utah to live among the Saints. Before we left, we walked up and down the halls wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Our children loved showing off their new toys.
One of the ladies said, “Come, little ones, and let me show you what I got for Christmas,” as she displayed the small pendant given to her by our Relief Society — her only treasure of the Christmas season.
“Joy to the world” sang in my heart now as I left the nursing home, and I felt the warmth of the Savior: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Pat Nelson Bair lives in North Ogden. She says, “Though this was many years ago, I put the picture out of Eddie. We visited four times and he passed away. Now I share this with my grandchildren.”