Holidays can be the worst times of the year.
It was Christmas Eve. How I dreaded its arrival! I knew I shouldn’t feel that way—but inside my little house the silence had become unbearable. My only company was the television, and most shows weren’t the kind that held my interest long.
I moved through my daily Bible reading and my prayers. I often talked to the Lord during the day, and there was comfort in that. I tried not to think about the past, but when the Christmas season arrived, I couldn’t help thinking about happier times.
I remembered last spring, when my Ted went to sleep in the Lord. Ours had been a good marriage. What made it special was that he was my best friend, and we were happy and contented with each other’s company. What made it even more difficult was that at my age, 82, most of the family on Ted’s side and mine had all passed away.
Christmas is a happy time for families and children. Even more, it’s a joyful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I was comforted, thinking that I, too, will someday meet again departed loved ones and be together with them in heaven, worshipping our heavenly Father and being with His Son, Jesus, forever.
My first Christmas without Ted I didn’t feel like putting up Christmas decorations. I displayed, however, the most important decoration: the Nativity scene of the Baby Jesus. It sat on the dining room table where my family once had gathered in happy excitement. In years past, we’d shared wonderful Christmas Days with a feast of good food and lots of love and laughter.
I hadn’t forgotten for one moment the true meaning of Christmas. I knew it was to celebrate our Lord’s “birthday.” In my heart I was more than happy that I had a Lord and Savior who cared for me and was always there for me. But I had such a yearning for something or someone to love and hug on that Christmas Eve.
“Dear God, please help me cope with my loneliness,” I prayed as I stood at my front room window in the late afternoon and gazed out past the front yard to the street.
Across the Street
I looked across to my neighbors’ house. Patrick and Desarae McDonnell had a pleasant young son, Aiden, and a pretty daughter, Alyssa, who was now in her late teens and finishing up her senior year in high school. I could see the McDonnells’ tall spruce Christmas tree standing near the large picture window. It was decorated with colorful ornaments and bright, flickering lights.
In my imagination I heard the happy sounds of family love.
In my imagination I heard the happy sounds of family love as they sat down to their Christmas Eve dinner. Later there would be gifts to open amid excited cries of delight.
I returned to my recliner, took the remote control, and flicked on the television to the Christian TV station. Soon they would perform the story of the birth of Jesus. I’d enjoy that presentation.
Before I sat down that evening, I thought about having some cookies and milk. I still bake oatmeal cookies with raisins for the Christmas season.
Looking at my platter of cookies, I wondered whether I had baked too many just for myself. Then I heard the doorbell ring. When I opened it, there stood Aiden.
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Adams,” Aiden said, grinning happily. He held a little black Scottie dog with a red-colored, plaid ribbon tied around his neck. On his head was a tiny, black, Scottish beanie-cap with a round fuzzy pom-pom on top. The puppy’s pink tongue licked at Aiden’s hand.
With his free hand Aiden offered me a rounded, paper plate wrapped in aluminum foil. “Mom wanted to share some of our Christmas Eve dinner with you,” he explained. “She hopes you will enjoy it.”
I held the warm paper plate smelling of delicious food. “Why, thank you, Aiden!” I exclaimed in surprised delight. “How thoughtful of your mother! Give her a big hug for me.”
Aiden nodded and gave me another wide grin. “I guess Mom told you Molly had three puppies a few months ago. It’s too many puppies for us. We thought maybe you might like to have this little guy to keep you company. We call him Mac, short for MacDonald—a good Scottish name.
“Oh, Aiden, he’s precious,” I said softly, as Aiden put the squirming puppy in my arms. “How kind of you all. I’d love to have Mac. I know how to house-train and care for him,” I said confidently. “We had several puppies when my children were small.”
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Adams,” Aiden said again. “If you need any help with Mac, just give me a call, and I’ll be right over.”
But Wait, There’s More
Tears filled my eyes. “Thank you for thinking about me,” I murmured. “Please, Aiden, come inside and take some of my homemade oatmeal cookies to your family.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Adams,” Aiden said. “And Mom told me to tell you she hopes you’re not cooking for yourself tomorrow. She’d like for you to have Christmas dinner with us about 2:00. I’ll come over and help you cross the street.”
This time a few tears escaped and rolled down my cheeks, and I gave Aiden a quick little hug. “Tell your mother I said, ‘Thank you for the invitation.’ I’ll look forward to coming over.”
With a covered plate of oatmeal cookies in his hands, Aiden crossed the yard and turned and waved. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Adams,” he said once more, smiling.
“Merry Christmas, Aiden, and thank you all again,” I called as a warm, squirming Mac wriggled in my arms. His little pink tongue spread wet kisses all over my cheeks. I closed the door. “I love you, too, Mac,” I said.
I looked up for a moment and smiled. “Thank You, God,” I whispered. “Thank You for answering my prayers and giving me a puppy to love and hug. I guess I won’t be too lonely anymore. I’m sure Aiden will come over to visit Mac now and then. Thank You for neighbors who care about me.”
That night I slept a contented sleep. Mac and I are great friends. He keeps me busy and active as I follow him around the house and take him out in the yard for exercise. And yes, he’s spoiled. He even sleeps at the foot of my bed!
My friends the McDonnells are always checking in on me, and I’ve not had an attack of loneliness again. I’ll never forget that happy Christmas Eve when God answered my prayers, and the McDonnells blessed me with their “good neighbor love.”
Evelyn Horan is a former teacher and school counselor. She authors books and stories for both youth and adults.