39. The Gift of Song

39. The Gift of Song

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Gift of Song

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

~Hamilton Wright Mabie

Christmas at Mémère’s house was always an event to look forward to, and not because of the presents. Since my dad’s family was so big, we had decided at one point when I was little that there would not be a big gift exchange. The best gifts were my grandmother’s stuffing, a fine breaded delicacy, and the aroma of cooked ham, squash, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce filling the house. Apple pie and endless treats always followed, no matter how full our bellies.

In the living room, the tree sat in the corner adorned with lights and ornaments of all kinds. The nativity scene always sat before the window, peacefully looking out to the greenhouse. The best part? My aunt’s hands moving across the piano, the living room alive with singing and dancing. There was something about the whole family gathering for a sing-along of Christmas carols and French-Canadian songs that completed the day. This was Christmas.

But this year would be different. This Christmas, my grandmother was in the hospital with pneumonia.

This year, we ate dinner just the four of us — my mom, dad, sister Renée and I. This year, we would still get to see Mémère, but it would only be for a short hospital visit.

“What about carols?” I asked my mom.

“No carols this year,” she said. “Guess we’ll just have to wait ’til next year.”

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It would be nice to see my family, but seeing my grandmother in the hospital did not really put me in the Christmas mood.

When we arrived, we stood in a half circle around Mémère. She seemed to be in good spirits as she sat propped up in her hospital bed. Between my aunts, uncles, cousins, and immediate family, there were probably more than twenty of us gathered around. The hospital was certainly not Mémère’s house — there were no lights or decorations, no aroma of delicious cooking, no Christmas tree or piano, but suddenly, this Christmas began to change. Our family’s love filled the small room, and so too did their gift of song.

Auntie Rachel started to sing, and then Auntie Gena and Corinne chimed in, along with Joanne and Annette. My Uncle Paul sang alongside my Uncle John, accompanied by my cousin Holly, her voice sweet and soothing. Softly, I joined in too. I had always been somewhat afraid of singing aloud, hearing my own voice, but something about my family’s music that night gave me confidence.

The carols did not end there. Slowly, we made our way out into the corridor, our melody drifting through the hallway. We visited other patients. As we sang, it was as if the void of spending the holiday in the hospital disappeared. The woes, disappointment, and sadness fell away, and Christmas was saved. In this moment, everything was well.

I later learned that many years ago Mémère had led my aunts and uncles in a similar fashion around nursing homes, churches, and civic centers, just like this, sharing their gift of song. Now, with my grandmother in her hospital bed, the Soucy Family Singers were at it again.

I will never forget that Christmas. Not only did it remind me how thankful I am for my family, but also how important it is to bring joy to others — making this day one of the best experiences I ever could have asked for. A true gift.

~Danielle Soucy Mills

More stories from our partners