Si-lent night, ho-ly night, All is calm, all is bright … the faint voices of the Christmas carolers seep through the stillness into my consciousness. Peeping out of the frosty window, I see the freshly fallen snow that has covered everything in sight. Darkness is settling in, and as the sound fades into the night, it is extremely quiet and hushed.
I let the curtain slowly slip through my hand, and sit down in my recliner, in front of the fireplace. I look at my husband’s empty chair and wonder why I have not moved it. I notice the flickering firelight makes dancing red patterns on the wall and his old chair.
My mind starts to wander as it frequently does these days. The glass of wine I hold in my hand promises me some much needed comfort tonight, inviting me to remember the joy of the good times of the past and at the same time, forgetting the lonely present. Oh Mein Leibte*, if you were only here tonight. In some ways, the two years you have been gone seem like an eternity, yet in other ways, it seems only yesterday that you were taken from me.
Lonely for the sound of human voices, I find myself talking to Lars quite a lot lately. “Lars, was it only I, that knew you had the soul of a poet and a penchant for Shakespeare? I think no one would suspect it of you, a tall shy man with calloused hands and a weather-lined face, dressed in your faded overalls and blue chambray shirt. I will never forget the words, though, will never forget how they stirred my heart when you quoted ‘fractured’ Shakespeare to declare your love for me. You started the letter with, “Mein Leibling, I take up my pen and ink to tell you of my feelings for you …” and finished with “‘if this be not love, then I never writ, nor no man ever loved.’”
“I miss you so much, Leibte. Fifty-two years we were married, and for fifty of them we lived in this house. Ah, the living that we did. I would and could not wish, for a different life, than the one we had together.”
“But Lars, this old house is much too big for me now. It’s so hard to heat, with these high ceilings. You would be so ashamed to see the peeling paint and the curled, rotten shingles on the roof making it a mere ghost of its former self. In fact, the whole neighborhood has gone to pot. Still, I stay. It is our home. I am overwhelmed sometimes, with the things you used to take care of that I didn’t even have to think about. How hard it must have been for you the last few years of your life.”
“Many things are so different now, Lars. The grandchildren do not speak your father’s German tongue, nor do they wish to do so. They are in a different world, than the one we lived in. Now everyone works, all the mamas as well as the papas. You labored such long hours at the mill, but my work was in the home and I was always here when the children came home from school.”
“Remember our family gatherings of Christmases past? The happy excited voices echoing throughout the house, doors slamming with kids coming in and going out. And do you remember the big Christmas trees that we always had, and that you were the one that climbed the ladder to put the Angel on the top? It was the highlight of the evening, when the little twinkling Christmas lights were turned on after you had finished with it. I watched you grow more unsteady each year that passed, and my heart was in my throat, as I watched your wobbly descent down the ladder.”
“It’s the silence, Leibte. Silence should not be existent on Christmas Eve. Our children and grandchildren don’t come as often as they used to when you were here. They say it is very sad for them to come here, since you passed away, and I know that it is true, in part. Partly true and partly an excuse, is it not, Leibte?”
“Our bed will be particularly cold and empty on this special night, without you, Leibte. The absence of sound will be loud in my ears. In the old days, at this time of evening, you would be here and our children would be here. It seems so long ago, but it was true, was it not Lars?”
“Ah, would it were evening, Lars, and all was well.”
* German words used:
Mein Leibte – My Dear or Dearest
Leibling – Darling