One Dec. 16, my sister called with the news that my dad wasn’t expected to live more than a couple of days. I faced the wearying task of finding a last-minute roundtrip flight that would get me back before Christmas. I was determined to spend the holiday with my children and grandkids, a thought that would sustain me through the week ahead. Miraculously, I got a flight, reasonably priced, that would return me to them around midnight on Christmas Eve.
The week held all the sadness of a parent dying. Dad had lived a full life, and I shared memories with siblings as we held each other up during the trying days. We had a beautiful memorial service with many who interrupted their Christmas plans to say goodbye to an old friend.
At the airport the following day, I sat quietly trying to get into the Christmas spirit. It wasn’t working. The plane took off and landed for my connecting flight, my mood still bleak.
But approaching the gate, I heard the familiar notes of “Silent Night.” I found a chorus of other travelers crowded into the waiting area and sprawled out on the floor. A scruffy, long-haired musician with a guitar accompanied the amateur voices. Mine chimed in. For the half hour before departure, we sang everything from “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” to “Away in a Manger.” We travelers came from many places and were on our way to different holidays, but for a short time we shared Christmas. Joining my voice with the others, I found the spirit I’d been seeking.
The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Margaret Griffin is a reader from Austin, Texas.