Sarah stood at the mailbox reading an invitation that had been placed there by her neighbors, Jessica and Eric. Sarah knew they meant well, just as they did the night a drunken driver slammed into Barry’s car at the end of their road. Barry was returning after taking home an aunt who had spent Christmas with them. That was the last Christmas Sarah wanted to celebrate. She glanced up and down the street. It was almost twilight. Christmas lights came on across the street. A pang of longing suddenly engulfed her. How will I ever enjoy the thrill of stringing Christmas lights again, or celebrate Christmas without the man who said he’ll be with me for always? I can’t do this, God. It’s hurts too much. Sarah dropped the invitation, turned quickly, rushed inside and locked the door.
Gradually the brightness of the neighborhood Christmas lights flooded in through the windows. Sarah yanked the curtains closed in an attempt to tone down the brightness and the haunting memories. She collapsed to the floor and wept uncontrollably.
The sound of the door bell woke Sarah. Groggy from her sleeping medication, she moved slowly toward the door and opened it a crack. “Who is it?”
“Sarah, it’s me, Jessica. Can I come in?”
“Um…” Sarah looked round the room. “Okay, just for a minute.” She stepped back and opened the door.
“Sarah, you can’t go on like this.”
“Sarah, its three o’clock in the afternoon… and it’s Christmas Day.”
“So, what’s it to you or anyone else?”
Sarah gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, Jessica… I’m sorry. I…”
“It’s okay, Sarah, we just want to help. Everyone in the street realizes Christmas has to be tough on you. You shouldn’t be alone. Please, come and have supper with us tonight.”
Tears streamed down Sarah’s face. Her chest hurt. Her throat was tight. Grasping Jessica’s hand, she couldn’t control her emotions anymore. “How… can I? I can’t face anyone” She swallowed. “It’s too hard and Christmas has only made it worse.”
“Let us help you, Sarah. You don’t have to do this alone.” Jessica paused and drew in a deep breath. “We came up with an idea. Eric and I want you to come and eat with our family tonight. Later we can watch the Christmas lights together.”
Sarah shook her head fiercely. “I can’t. The whole Christmas lights thing… it was Barry’s favorite part of our Christmas celebrations.”
Jessica’s eyes misted over. “I know, Sarah. Let me finish. The whole street will be lit up as usual… until nine.”
Sarah swallowed hard. “The time of Barry’s… death?”
“Yes. Will you join us?”
Sarah paused to take in what Jessica had said. She nodded slowly and wiped a cheek with the back of her hand. “Okay.” She paused. “Our Christmas lights are in the basement. I couldn’t bear to put them up this year.”
“Why don’t I ask Eric to round up some neighbors to help put them up before dark?”
A small smile crept across Sarah’s face. “Thank you.” After a quick hug, Sarah headed to the basement.
The rest of the day went too quickly for Sarah. She enjoyed her time with Jessica and Eric’s family. She even allowed herself to laugh with the children. Later Sarah stood on the front lawn and watched as each house lit up. They were even more beautiful than she remembered. For almost an hour they admired the glowing effect of the Christmas lights.
When nine o’clock approached, Christmas lights on every house suddenly toned down to half their lighting.
Sarah turned full circle. “Look, Jessica.”
All around them, neighbors came out from their homes carrying candles. Sarah accepted an unlit candle from Jessica’s youngest child then turned to her friend as the large group encircled her. “I don’t understand.
”Jessica approached and lit Sarah's candle with her own. “We thought a candlelight Christmas vigil would be perfect.”
Everyone walked slowly to the end of the road behind Sarah. There she discovered a small white cross had been placed near the tree where Barry’s life had tragically ended at the age of twenty seven. Neighbor’s children placed flowers under the tree and someone began to sing Barry’s favorite Christmas carol, Silent Night.
Tears trickled down Sarah’s face. “Thank you, everyone. Next year let’s proclaim the Savior’s birth with as many Christmas lights as possible. That’s the way Barry would want it.”
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