Banks County Opinions...

December 26, 2001

Letter to the Editor

The Banks County News
December 26, 2001

Saw Christmas miracle at BJC
Yes, dateline 12/18/2001 6-9 p.m., I saw a miracle at BJC Nursing Home. I saw 165 elderly residents be happier than I thought was possible. The family members of the residents of BJC Nursing Home started weeks ago. Late night work until early morning, garage sales, bake sales and bingo were among the many methods used to achieve this miracle. I watched people working busily with joy and excitement in their hearts. The sense of anticipation grew with each day that passed to the “over the top” joy of this miracle. People came, children played, and love was shared with everyone. Each family showered attention on their specific relative but also enjoyed being with all the residents and their families as well. I saw joy in each elderly patient’s face as I walked from one unit in the nursing home to the next. As the Christmas party was ending, and the families were leaving, I actually saw them looking back from the front door like they wanted to go back and do it some more.
The staff was busy with getting the clients to bed as they were very tired after the Christmas party was over. Many staff came to me telling me of the clients saying, “Merry Christmas” to them as they said good night to them. This experience has lifted the spirits of the staff as they worked the remainder of their shift with obvious joy in their own hearts. The family members achieved this act of love with no evidence of effort. But I want you to know it took great effort. A beautiful effort of love. The most impressive thought to be shared with you the readers is .... you ain’t seen nothing yet! The families are just getting started.
Merry Christmas,
Clifford Schneider, RN


By: Shar Porier
he Banks County News
December 26, 2001

Blue, blue Christmas
Every Christmas when I go home, I always stop at Dad’s grave. Usually, I’m alone.
But this year, my Sis and her husband came along. Not to keep me company, but to visit his Dad’s grave as well.
They had bought grave blankets for both our dads—decked out in red, white and blue in honor of their military service in World War II. Atop each was an American flag.
We were quiet as we drove to the cemetery through the early morning fog.
We stopped at Dad’s first. Ken laid the pine blanket and wired it down. As I watched, I felt a lump begin to grow in my throat and tears filling my eyes. Memories came flooding back.
One took me to our last Christmas with Dad.
It was a special Christmas. We all knew Dad wouldn’t see another, so we tried to make it special for him and for us.
We were sitting at the dining room table before dinner. My uncle had brought his guitar. He and Dad used to sing together in a country band. The two began singing Christmas Carols. Dad’s favorite was “Silver Bells.” He sang it joyously, smiling and laughing at the missed words. Watching him, I could hardly hold back the tears. A precious blessing had been given that day. I savored every note, the twinkle in his eyes that belied his illness. He sang and laughed as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I looked at him with awe and amazement. I thank my uncle every time I see him for that extraordinary gift he gave that Christmas.
As Dad’s voice echoed in my thoughts, I knelt to clean the dead leaves from the headstone. I couldn’t hide the sobs and Mary knelt besaide me and gave me a hug. We hugged each other, silent except for the quiet sounds of grief.
We moved toward the car, trying to shrug off the melancholy, to make the short drive to Ken’s Dad’s grave.
I felt for Ken. His dad had been taken so suddenly, so unexpectedly. One minute he was playing volleyball in a seniors’ league, the next he was lying dead on the court from a massive stroke. It was a shock Ken, Mary and the family still were dealing with. They had been very close.
Ken lifted the blanket out of the trunk, and I saw him struggle to retain his composure as he carried it toward the grave. He laid the blanket and wired it to the damp ground.
The fog was lifting, and around us we saw all the colors of Christmas spread across the grounds. The bright red bows standing out against the deep green pine boughs. Beautiful.
He stood up, shoulders drooping, head low. Mary put her arm around him, supporting him. Ken began talking about what a hard life his dad had lived as a youngster. He found great pride in the way his dad rose above that hard life to give his own kids a loving, attentive, involved relationship.
Ken told of his youth. It was the first time I’d ever heard him speak of it. They had it hard, like we did. He remembered how he wore socks for mittens. They didn’t have a car but his Dad managed somehow to finally buy one. That year, the family took the first of many vacations to come. They went camping and the joy of fishing with his dad took him back to that day alongside a lake he couldn’t name where he caught his first fish.
The kids’ sentiment was obvious — on his headstone it read: Loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
As grief overcame him and Mary, I went to their side and the three of us stood there, tears streaming down our faces, sorrow crushing our chests, weakening our knees.
As we stood there holding on to each other, we realized how many people would be doing the same thing we were. Helping loved ones through the first Christmas without a mom, or dad, or child.
This Christmas was going to be one of grief for so many. The lives lost senselessly in New York and Washington. The servicemen lost in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Suddenly, I found myself singing “Blue Christmas.” But it was really a duet — I heard Dad singing harmony.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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Homer, Georgia
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