If Elise heard one more Christmas song or cheerful, “Merry Christmas,” she would puke.
She felt no joy, no peace, no goodwill toward men.
Honestly, Elise felt nothing; she was numb. Of course, maybe that was from the alcohol she was downing. Or maybe from the Valium her doctor had prescribed two months ago.
Elise went to the fridge and took out a beer, twisted off the cap and guzzled half the bottle before coming up for air. Then she shook two pills out of the small vial and washed them down.
She walked to the window and looked down the street at the Johnson’s home and the Randall’s home and several others, all decked for the holidays. Lights outlined roofs. Illuminated signs declared, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Christmas trees stood in front picture windows, white lights twinkling... mocking.
Elise raised her bottle. “Cheers.”
She looked at the corner of her living room where her own Christmas tree should have been. It was empty except for the old green recliner.
Elise didn’t decorate at all; there was nothing to celebrate anymore.
She bit back the growing lump in her throat and swallowed the rest of her beer, then set the empty bottle on the end table. Her eyes fell to the photo. Magnet-like, her hand was pulled to it and carefully, tenderly, she brought the frame to her chest and hugged it, letting the tears come.
For the hundredth time, Elise cried out. “God, why? Why would you let my baby die?” She held out the photo and traced the outline of Christina’s face, her smile, the prominent dimple in her left cheek.
At this time last year, Christina was doing what Christina loved most: singing. She had begged Elise to let her go caroling on Christmas Eve and spent a whole week practicing her favorite songs. O Holy Night was at the top of her list and she couldn’t wait to sing it to the world. After assurances from her ex-husband that he would take her and stay right by her side the entire time, Elise relented.
But her ex didn’t keep his word. While he was distracted by his new girlfriend, Christina took off across the street.
And by the time he noticed she was gone, it was too late.
Is Christina singing in heaven right now?
Elise tossed the thought aside. Ha! Heaven. How could there be a heaven when there was no God? The God she used to believe in wouldn’t have snatched her little girl away without warning. Not after she prayed so hard for her safety that night. Believed so sincerely that God would protect her.
Elise sank into the recliner and closed her eyes. She tried to sleep, desperate to escape, even if only for a while. Maybe if she took a couple more pills, she would sleep right through and Christmas would come and go without her.
But sleep wouldn’t come. Thoughts of Christina invaded her mind and she wrestled with them for what seemed like hours. She wanted to remember. But she wanted to forget. The tears flowed and her heart ached with longing for her baby. To hold her, smell her, hear her voice.
And then the singing started.
The voices...so clear...so beautiful, coming from her front porch. “O holy night...the stars are brightly shining...it is the night...of our dear Savior’s birth.”
The Savior’s birth...And my daughter’s death...
Elise sat in the dark, listening to the carolers, wanting to cover her ears but at the same time wanting to hear. She pictured Christina standing in the middle of them, belting out the words with sincerity and conviction.
And Elise knew then that it was no accident that those carolers had found her doorstep. And that they had chosen that particular song to share. Elise knew they were there to minister to her. To remind her there really was a God. And that He would take her through this darkness until she saw light again.
Elise struggled out of the chair. She had no cookies to offer the carolers but she wanted to tell them how much their song meant to her.
She wept as she opened the door.
Her breath caught. The porch was empty.
She looked up and down the street for a sign of the carolers. But all she saw were lights.
As Elise made her way back inside, her spirit was filled with wonder.
It was a holy night, indeed.
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