It was the day before Christmas, and the hills and valleys of Southeastern Kentucky had pulled up a blanket of new fallen snow to cover itself. The home was decorated with bits and pieces of Christmas through the halls and rooms. A tree covered with baubles and trims sat waiting for the gifts that everyone was eagerly awaiting.
A local church came by and held a short service and sang carols as the residents joined in with an enthusiastic spirit of Christmas. The church folks visited with the residents and passed out gifts then left to celebrate with their own families.
Santa Claus had also made a trip past the home riding on a fire truck wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas." Since some of the residents had no family to visit during this exciting holiday, they cherished these events that brought visitors. Excitement and anticipation of Christmas built with every activity geared to their pleasure and comfort.
Alice had family who loved her and visited often, but the icy conditions in the winding mountainous roads had delayed their visit. She spent her time visiting with the other residents and workers. In her room were pieces of her art work and tablets filled with sketches that her now shaky hands, once steady and sure, had created. These hands that had played piano, produced beautiful paintings in various media and touched the lives of children that she had loved and mentored still could entertain the residents of the home with simple melodies on the piano and sketch their portraits.
The workers at the home called Alice their "favorite resident." She looked after everyone and felt their pain, shared their tears and anything else she had that they wanted.
Christmas Day came and Alice watched resident, Iva June, as she excitedly went from room to room exclaiming "Santa is coming! Santa is coming! Did you know Santa is coming? And my brother is coming to bring me some presents." Alice knew that Iva June would be looking for Santa's gifts and would be disappointed when he didn't show up with them. She slipped into her own room, picked out a new pink blouse she had received as a gift, wrapped it and put Iva June's name on it "From Santa." She looked around at the gifts she had received, spotted a tote and filled it with her own gifts of perfume, lotion and a small teddy bear. She took her treasures and placed them under the Christmas tree.
She went in search of Iva June. When she found her, she asked if she had looked under the tree to see if Santa had left her anything. She hadn't, but she headed in that direction eagerly. Alice pointed out the gifts with Iva June's name on them. Iva June eagerly opened the gifts and was overjoyed to find them. She hugged the teddy bear to her breast, then she ran to her room and put on the new pink blouse and wore it all day. Santa had not forgotten her! She made sure everyone at the home knew that Santa had come and remembered to leave her some gifts.
Alice just smiled and with that sweet spirit of hers thanked God that she had been able to play Santa and bring such happiness to someone else.
The day after Christmas, as she was getting dressed, two aides came to Alice's room and said, "Alice, we have some bad news for you." With tears in their eyes, they told Alice that Iva June had died. They hugged and cried together. It was so hard to believe; she had been so excited with Christmas just the day before. It was a sad day at the home as they grieved for one of their residents, a friend.
Note: This event took place on Christmas 2003. Iva June's death hung heavy over Alice. She remarked, "Two things that are so hard for me was Iva June's death and getting my purse stolen. On a trip to town, a purse snatcher had dragged her along the sidewalk as she tried to hold on to her purse. It wasn't her money she grieved over; it was on her person. It was her beloved pictures and letters that she always carried in her purse. As depression settled heavily, her medication was changed. Shortly afterwards, while standing in the lunch line, she suffered a severe seizure and went into a coma from which she never recovered.
She left us July 16, 2004 and her "alabaster box" that she had broken so many times to leave a lovely aroma on so many others during her own struggle with Bipolar was broken one last time and still lingers in our hearts today. We can't help but wonder if she and Iva June in her pink blouse are celebrating the birth of Jesus together this Christmas!