(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This morning “Santa” handed out gifts to the residents where Mom lives. Many experienced great joy in opening those presents, but others, like my mother, didn’t remember what it means to open a present. Nonetheless, I tried to put together a package that expressed the person she used to be.

First of all, my mother worked in a drug store and that meant she learned to wrap presents well, as did my father, the pharmacist. In fact, they both did such a great job that I hardly learned how to wrap a present. It took me years to do half as good a job as they did. Still, this year I got out the fancy foil carousel horse paper Mom had bought from my kids—she loved carousel horses so much she collected small versions of them (we couldn’t afford to get her a real carousel horse!) And then I pulled out the curling ribbons and created a much reduced version of the frothy ribbon ornamentations she and Dad could do.

OK—I’m also pretty excited about the red sock monkey flannel nightgown she pulled out of that box. If I could have found an orange gown, it would have been even more her kind of gift. But, it is soft and warm—and full of life.

Truly, though, the biggest gifts I give her now are holding her hands and helping her to eat and drink. Her life has slowed to the most basic of basic activities.

So like the Little Drummer Boy, I had no idea what I could really give her that mattered.

Until I remembered that sound is supposed to be one of the last senses people experience. Beyond smells, what greater memories do we have of our Christmases Past than the songs from those times?

Of course, Mom’s parents taught her the German carols we know in English in the original language—German words I only faked. However, I have access to the Internet—and access to a college friend who, by the Internet, gave me a pronunciation lesson to see me through a little higher level of faking.

When our pastoral intern Jess Daum and I set up a time for her to give communion to my mother for Christmas, I realized she might be able to get in on my Little Drummer Boy plan. What good Lutheran minister (or minister-in-training) in the U.S. hasn’t heard a few good German phrases or had to pronounce some complicated German last names?

And so I passed Jess the cheat sheet sent to me by Lisa Richards. A few moments later we sang both “Tannenbaum” and “Stille Nacht” for Mom, without any rehearsal. From the moistness in Mom’s eyes, I know we got it as right as it needed to be.

To help my mom through her dark nights, I pray she sees the light coming into the world this stille nacht. And if not, that she hears the promise in the songs she heard upon her mother’s lap. Schlaf in himmlisher Ruh.