Earlier this year, an elderly lady, who became my friend, died.
I had visited her each week after Sunday Mass, and we discussed the sermon which I recited to her, the parish and community news, my family life and we even strayed into world events and politics.
She was a remarkable lady and yet in all the years I knew her, she never once left her home and she lived a quite solitary but fulfilling life.
On Christmas Eve, I used to take my family to see her, and I would sing a selection of Christmas Carols to her before going to celebrate Christmas.
This year, with the permission of her sisters who live away from here, I went back into the old and empty house, letting myself in with a key which I still hold.
I ventured into the room where my friend died and I said a prayer for her.
I then moved into the kitchen where the two chairs in which we sat, aside the fire (which was lit on a low light) were situated.
I sat in my chair, and looked over at hers. I sang quietly the beautiful Christmas carol, Away in a Manger.
I was struck by the last sentence in which the carol ends “…and fit us for heaven to live with thee there” and although I had not planned it, the words felt appropriate and right for the moment, because I believe that is where she is.
I then went into the nosey part of my visit (with the express permission of her family) and I went to look around this magnificent empty old house, which has huge rooms on three floors.
It had lots of evidence, despite being largely empty of the christian heritage on which the family had left its mark, for there were crucifixes on the walls and religious pictures and pious books among the rest on the book cases.
Once these remaining items are cleared and some items sold, the empty house will be sold, a new life will transform it for the next generations to come.
As I left this empty house for the last time, I too felt transformed by the memories of the past, by my love for my dear friend, for all my hope for the future, as I entered into my own celebrations, once again, for the Birth of Christ.
My next blog will be: Changing Traditions