Are you listeningBy LOTTIE BOGGAN,
My brother Alvin and his wife Becky had brought me to a Christmas sing-along at the brightly decorated Country Club of Jackson. On this night we were downstairs in the Onyx, a room filled with joyous, celebrating people calling out hellos and greetings to one another. Holiday tunes were being sung and led by a talented young man playing the piano.
Shirley Foster graced the crowd with her beautiful voice as she sang several of the old, familiar Christmas carols. A few other talented singers followed Shirley; her husband, Eddie Foster, David Clark, and a young man, Payton Couch. When the last one sat down, the happy clamor seemed to fade and soon I heard a soft thrumming beat. Was it the sound of my heart? A drum?
“Come, they told me, Pa rum pum pum pum.”
No. It was the piano. I dropped my head and hugged myself.
Hearing the soft pound, I returned to a Christmas past; the last one with my husband. As if sensing I needed comfort, an arm slid around my shoulders. I glanced up. A kind young lady from our church held me.
Our bodies rocked and swayed together as once again, I am back in other moments.
2014. Just as the day lightened outside and a sliver of golden daylight slipped through the drawn blinds the thought came to me: this was almost the end of the Yule season.
I was in the room at Ridgeland Hospice with husband Willard.
“Mercy,” he had said some weeks ago, when ambulance attendants carefully slid him from a gurney onto the bed. “My brother Bobby’s waiting.” He had spoken very little since then, as if he were lost in times past. Perhaps seeing his beloved girls, Pat and Tootie, his granddaughter, Brent, and his brother, Bobby, the young B-29 pilot who was shot down over Yokohama Harbor, years ago.
The days had been long and now it was Christmas. Known to be a time of joy, this season had been one of little joy for me and ours. Sitting there by Willard’s bedside it came to me, I had not heard a single carol; there had been no Christmas spirit during these long days.
I felt sad and yearned for Christmases past. I left Willard’s room, went to the desk at the end of the hall and told a kind nurse that I felt a real need to hear carols. “I’ve got a radio here,” she said. “There’s a station playing twenty-four hours of Christmas music.” She brought it into our room, plugged in the radio, and found the station.
I had no idea whether or not Willard could hear, so I turned up the volume and crawled into the hospital bed next to my husband. As his chin kissed my cheek, I heard the faint roll of drums in the background.
“Mercy,” Willard breathed that Christmas morning- the first word he had spoken in days that could be understood.
And in that moment, the drum I heard on the radio grew stronger, and filled the room.
“Come they told me, Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, Pa rum pum pum pum.
Our finest gifts we bring, Pa rum pum pum pum”
Willard had opened his eyes and looked down at me. Then I began whispering to him, so many of the things I had thought during those long days and nights, had longed to say, but knew he couldn’t hear me.
But now, oh, he did, and during those precious moments once again he was with me. We talked and sweet memories filled the room.
Too soon, my husband grew as still and quiet as a fallen tear.
“I played my best for Him, Pa rum pum pum pum.”
I gently squeezed his hand. “And oh, you did. You played your best for your King. Your whole life.”
How blessed I have been. For the kind, gentle man I was married to. My family. My friends. My church. For being where I was on that Christmas day. For where I was on this night—the Onyx room at the Jackson Country Club.
There was a moment of intense silence then, “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening, in the lane, snow is glistening,” the pianist sang. Still, there was an echo of already played and sung music in the room. I heard not, “Walking in a winter wonderland,” but,
“The stars in the heaven, looked down where he lay.
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.”
And the faint sound of a drum, “Pa rum pum pum pum.”