Last night for family home evening Calvin and I went Christmas and Reunion grocery shopping. We stopped on our way to pay our neighbor for the hay he delivered last week, and talked to his wife who was putting the final touches on their yard decorations. It's the first time their little granddaughter has come to their home for Christmas, and due to deployments and life, the first time their family has been together for Christmas in 8 years. She said, "I want my little granddaughter to remember Grandma's house at Christmas." There is a lit nativity in one corner of the yard, a lit Santa riding a tractor in another, candles and carolers under the trees by the driveway, and a host of other lights and decorations as well. No doubt, her little granddaugher will remember seeing the Christmas lights at Grandma's.
"Remember seeing the Christmas lights" reminded me of the year Abe was 17 years old and Ty was 16. They couldn't think of a gift to give to their 86-year-old friend Bernice. The boys had known Bernice for a year or two and had helped trim her rose bushes, administered the Sacrament to her in her home, and given her rides to church. Sometimes they just went to visit her. Bernice's grandson, Kyle, played football for the Saints and she had stories . . . and Saints gear.
But it was Christmas time and the boys couldn't think of a gift to give her. Bernice was allergic to poinsettias, made very good candy of her own, didn't need more perfume, and her small, one-bedroom home had enough trinkets. They were at a loss as to what to give her. They finally decided to take her on a drive to see the Christmas lights around town and then to Burger King for a hamburger afterwards.
The day came. It had been hectic and they considered calling to see if they could reschedule. They decided to just go. They put on some nice clothes and went to pick her up.
The boys weren't gone very long - probably just over an hour - and I was surprised, and worried, they were home so soon. They came into the family room and quietly sat down on the couch. Both boys just sat there, not saying anything.
I asked them how it had gone. One said, “Good,” and the other, “Really good.” They didn't offer any more information.
Finally, after a few minutes and lots of questions, they shared a few details.
When they got to Bernice's home to pick her up, she was dressed in her best. Though she'd been ill and housebound for some time, she had her daughter put on her make-up and fix her hair. Lynn, her daughter, told the boys that even though Bernice didn't feel very good that day, she had insisted on getting ready and had been sitting and waiting on the couch that afternoon for the hour and the boys to come.
Abe said, "She was so excited to see us," and had let them know through her eyes and labored breathing. The boys helped her get into the car and Abe drove while Ty sat in the back. Bernice visited a little with them as they drove and looked at the decorated homes. She tired sooner than they expected and she thought she probably ought to go back home. She declined the hamburger saying she just didn't feel well enough. They took her home, then came home themselves.
That was all. It wasn't dramatic. They didn't go get a hamburger themselves, nor did they feel like they'd conquered Everest. They didn't want to go do something else with friends that evening. They just quietly sat there. Then Ty's eyes filled with tears and he said, "She was just so excited to go with us. She'd been waiting for us."
Bernice died less than a month later and both boys sat on the front row at her funeral. That was eight years ago, but I'll bet neither boy - now men - will ever forget seeing the lights with Bernice and how important she made them feel.