Do you have a favorite Christmas song? We all do, even if we don’t celebrate Christmas. We all notice ourselves whistling or humming along to a tune on the radio with an inevitable shoulder wiggle to the happy tunes that seems to follow us into every venue during the month of December. Two weeks ago, when I was on shift in the intensive care unit (ICU), the family of a patient I had been caring for all week came in and surrounded her bed. I was sitting at a computer station close to her room, and suddenly heard “Last Christmas” by Wham! playing. It’s not often that one hears music in the ICU – the only sounds are typically a flurry of alarms that signal at different pitches and speeds to help the listener quickly decipher the acuity of the distress. Happy, winsome music is not the norm.
Then the family, which consisted of her adult children, their spouses and some nieces, all started singing. “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart… but the very next day, you gave it away….” They had horrible pitch; all singing at different tempos. “This year, to save me from tears… I’ll give it to someone special.” I noticed my forehead wrinkling as I tried to hold back tears, but they came anyway, a steady quiet stream of thick salty drops welled up in my eyes and down my cheeks. I wrapped it up and sent it… with a note saying, “I love you, ” I meant it”… Music unites us. It brings us together, and it’s what we recognize, even when we are about to take our last breaths. They were saying goodbye to their mom.
One of the daughters peeked out to me, and asked, “Is this ok? It’s her favorite song.” I sniffed back my tears, smiled and nodded, Of course it is. They played it over and over again and sang it to her, over and over again, for the next hour until she passed. They let her go with the embrace of music, and their united voices, in love and tribute to her.
The holidays are strange, aren’t they? We look forward to them for the time off, but we often forget that it is a time to connect and unite. Look to the person next to you and ask them what their favorite Christmas song is, then tell them yours. We never know when it may be our Last Christmas. And when it is, I hope they sing you your favorite song too.