A Lonely Christmas

A large statue of the Virgin Mary guards the entrance to St. Francis Hospital. Nearby stands a big, snow-covered pine tree bathed in blue lights. As I pass through the reception area, a life-size, mechanical Santa waves a cheery hello.
On the third floor, under an antiseptic sheet, mother’s form looks slight, fragile. I am glad I’ve come. We kiss and hug and cry. She fusses. I shouldn’t have driven so far. The weather is to unpredictable this time of year. The roads are unsafe for a woman alone. But, her eyes light up as we talk.
The food is tasteless, she jokes. The trays look suspiciously like the ones she sent back to the kitchen during her last stay two months ago.
Was our respite so short, I wonder?
As we chat, we drink cider from the container on her window sill and munch grapes from the fruit basket on her night stand. The doctors and nurses are good people, she says, but they’re just too busy taking care of the patients who’re really sick. Besides, she is going to be all right. She says so.
The heparin injected in the plug in her arm every four hours does seem to be clearing her lungs of the blood clots faster than the shots she had in her stomach last time. Her chest x-rays show improvement. If only she weren't so pale and thin.
Mother says she feels fortunate. Her roommate just came back from surgery. Breast cancer. So, mother, with only one leg and blood clots in her lungs, cares for their needs via the bedside buzzer.
From the intercom in the hallway, strains of “Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,” drift into the small room at the end of the long corridor. It doesn't matter that the television doesn’t work.
There’s enough activity, mother says, outside her doorway. We watch as the head nurse makes her rounds with the medicine cart. She pauses only briefly to direct an elderly man back to his room.
Last Christmas, mother enjoyed a healthy reprieve. No hospitals, no tumors, no radiation.
This year, well, mother says a hospital is a lonely place at Christmas.
From the third floor window, I look down on the dark, deserted city street below.
The other visitors have all gone home, past the mechanical Santa, the blue-lit Christmas tree and the Virgin Mary, who on this night will have help watching over her flock.

*Dedicated to my mother, Ollie Null Bailey, who passed away a number of years ago. I was her biggest fan and she was mine. She loved the essays I wrote, both published and unpublished. She told me one time that one of my essays about her made her cry. I told her I hadn’t meant to make her sad. She said, “Oh it didn’t make me sad. It made me happy to think you thought that much of me.” She was special.
Blessings to you and yours! And join me in doing at least one kindness for someone this holiday season.


  1. She sounds wonderful, Barb. Sigh . . .

  2. My mama passed away jus' before Christmas, in '86. I don't think we ever stop missing 'em, do we?

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful message about your mama. She sounds like an amazing lady.

    Merry Christmas!

    ~ Yaya

  3. My Mom died in 1989. Sometimes she'd visit in dreams. The funny thing is, I still don't feel like she's gone -- just not able to call her on the telephone.

    I'm glad you wrote this.

  4. That's how I feel, too. She still visits my dreams an' we still talk; I jus' can't seem to plan a visit with her.

    ~ Yaya

  5. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing Barb. You're mother sounds like a wonderful woman.

  6. I'm catching the weepies from you Barb!

  7. The way I determine the talent of a writer is simple: does the writing make me think and feel something? Do I walk away marveling at the choice of words, the vivid images, the honesty of the writing? On all counts, Barbara, you are way up there on my list of excellent writers!

    Sal Buttaci, author of Flashing My Shorts

  8. You are so fortunate to have had such an amazing mom. May your memories of your time together brighten this season. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and poignant story.

  9. Beautifully written as usual, Barb. Your description captures the feelings. We never get over the loss of our mothers--or our fathers. It's like losing part of ourselves, part of our history. And Christmas is the season that brings back memories. I'm so grateful that so many are good ones.

  10. Thanks to all who commented on this piece about my mother. She was a strong, down to earth person with a great sense of humor and a great sense of humility.
    I can only hope that a few of her traits rubbed off on me.
    God bless you all.

  11. The holidays are always hard when you've lost a loved one. I can see why your mother was proud of you; you write so lovely. But I'm of the mind that she is watching you down from heaven and is STILL proud of you.

  12. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I'm glad you did because now I can follow yours and enjoy your wonderful writing. This story hit me hard, not because I've lost my Mom, but because she's 84 and I know the time will come one day...sooner than later. I did lose my Dad many years ago around this time of year and that's another reason this touched me. Thanks and have a wonderful holiday!

  13. What a moving post, Barbara. My mom passed away in St. Francis Hospital in 1996. I miss her so much. She never lived to read my stories, I wish she had. She was a wonderful mother as yours was, too.


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