The Last Minute Guests

by Dottie Healy
California, USA

I expected December 2002 to be the worst Christmas ever, my first rough Christmas. My husband had had a stroke, and though progressing well, wasn’t his true self.

The Last Minute GuestsMy eldest daughter had planned a family skiing trip, taking my three grandchildren away the entire Christmas week. What would Christmas be without their shrieks of joy and surprise, hugs and kisses?

My son had promised to take his wife home to see her folks. Her family needed her, too. My youngest daughter would spend Christmas with her girlfriends, their last together before someone moved away.

My hopes for a family celebration fell away for the first time in my life. My Christmas would be spent quietly alone with my ailing husband, knowing that he would benefit if people were around.

Then I remembered growing up in an Air Force town during the war, inviting servicemen to share our holidays. Perhaps some of the new college grads at work, recruited from all over the country, wouldn’t be able to head home for their holidays.

I emailed our whole section, inviting everyone without plans and willing to drive 30 miles to come enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas dinner with us. Responses were heart-warming and grateful, but no one actually accepted.

These young folk are more self-sufficient than I expected, I thought, and what was I thinking — asking young people to spend a boring day with old folks, even with food like mom’s.

Then into my email came an acceptance. It was from a long-time friend who knew my situation. She and her husband would love to join us. But I’d advertised music and singing — how would we entertain just one couple? I was panic-stricken.

Christmas morning Don and I opened our presents without enthusiasm, and set them aside to wait out the day. They won’t show, I thought gloomily. They made a pie crust promise. This will be the worst Christmas of my life! At 11:00 a.m. I had the whole, lonely day ahead to be cheerful for my dear husband.

Then out the kitchen window I saw my friend and her husband walking up the driveway. They had come after all, and they both were carrying guitars!

In that moment, I realized that two loving people had read between the lines of my email and come prepared to save the day. And save it they did. They played guitar and sang. Then I played the piano as they sang and my husband whistled along. The joy was contagious.

I know I cooked a meal and we all ate that day, but I don’t remember what it was. My friend’s husband carried on interesting male-oriented conversation for the benefit of my husband, who relished the special attention. My heart sang with gratitude for my friend’s selfless gesture.

What I do remember, and will always remember, is how my friend and her husband made us the recipient of their wonderful charity on a joyous Christmas day.

Originally published as HeroicStories #576 on Dec 21, 2004

3 thoughts on “The Last Minute Guests”

  1. This is such a heartwarming story. The holidays can be tough, as kids grow-up and families morph with new relatives and other commitments, aging parents, unexpected illnesses, etc. . Long-held traditions are stretched to accommodate these changes, sometimes almost to the breaking point.

    How good of Dottie to extend herself and make the invite in the first place! And so good of her friend to know that, in accepting the invitation, she and her husband were, in turn, giving something priceless.

  2. Wonderful story, eyes leaking. This is the fourth Xmas since Mom died, this time of the year was always special to her, she and I had a shopping weekend every year for 26 years, no matter how sick either of us were, we went. This is a tough time of the year, brother moved to other side of country, Mom was the glue that held the family together, and we ALWAYS got together! Fortunately a number of long time friends have formed our own family, but while wonderful in its own way, it isn’t the same.

    Best of the season to everyone, this site is most appreciated.

  3. My eyes are leaking too, just too much going on to be happy as I read this remembrance. Thankfully my parents and my husband’s mother are all still with us (whether 75 miles or 9,0000+ miles!), but we’ll miss seeing them for Christmas and New Years. Friends and other family members are still will us too – but never as close or as regular as we’d like. (Of course I’m as bad in paying attention to them too.) Still, I’ll dry off my eyes and try to find my happy face for the rest of this season of seasons.

    Best of all seasons to everyone – regardless of what you believe and/or celebrate.

    PS: An extra thank you to Leo for keeping up this site!


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