She peered from her dingy apartment window, wiping the frost with the sleeve of her sweater so she could see more clearly. A light snow was falling making the city streets outside her old brownstone a clean carpet of white. Sally was eagerly awaiting a delivery from the local grocery store containing the simple items for her dinner tonight. It was Christmas Eve and Sally wanted to celebrate this special time, at least in a small way. Over 90 and in failing health, it was to be a bittersweet celebration for sure. A few years ago her husband Samuel became gravely ill. To her great sorrow, he faded quickly and went home to be with the Lord on the eve of his favorite day—Christmas.
Sally loved her “Sammy”, so it was hard imagining celebrating tonight alone. He was so alive around Christmas and always seemed his happiest around the holidays. Every Christmas Eve he would sing, laugh—sometimes scooping her up from her chair for a dance. He would put on a Santa hat and say, “Come on sweetie, I saved a dance for my best gal!” Afterwards they would cuddle-up on the couch, sip tea, and read the story of the Savior’s birth. When midnight came they would run to their small tree, and like giggling children, rip open all the gifts.
The crunch of snow and the sight of a tall figure coming down the sidewalk carrying bundles snapped her back to her vigil. Sally watched the trudging shape come up the stairs and ring the bell to her apartment. Drawing her sweater around her neck to guard against the cold, she opened the door and let the familiar face inside. It was Manny, a young man in his twenties or so, who had been delivering her groceries for a few months now.
“Mrs. Hamilton, how good to see you! Merry Christmas!” Manny said with a booming voice.
“Merry Christmas Manny, come in, come in.” Sally said excitedly.
“Shall I carry these to the kitchen?” Manny asked.
“Oh, please do, please do, I’m so wound up, I need to start cooking right away!” Sally replied.
Manny carried the bags into the narrow kitchen, where Sally began to unpack her goodies. She place the items, a small ham, some potatoes, a can of green beans and a box of Earl Grey tea, on her small kitchen table
With a hint of tears in her eyes, Sally mused, “My Sammy sure did love his spot of tea.”
Sorrow threatened to swallow the moment and her thoughts filled with emotion. How could she celebrate after all these years of placing Christmas in the shadows? She decided that she must, this Christmas seemed fresh and ready to embrace again. Besides, her heart sensed the Messiah's presence more than ever and she could always celebrate Him.
Dabbing at her eyes with her apron Sally soon looked up and hesitantly asked, “Manny, would you like to have dinner with me?”
“Why, I would love to Mrs. H,…absolutely love to!” Manny replied cheerfully.
The two of them set about fixing the meal, laughing, singing, and even enjoying a silly dance to Jingle Bell Rock playing on the radio. Soon the kitchen was warm, filled with a wonderful aroma and alive with memories. During dinner Sally told story after story of her husband Sammy and the love he had for Jesus.
Sally became quiet and Manny could see the pain of loneliness in her eyes. They were sipping their tea when Sally asked, “I’m so tired Manny, will you help me to the couch?” Manny helped the weary Mrs. Hamilton to the couch, laying her head gently on a quilted pillow. Covering Sally with a blanket, Manny then pulled a small box from his jacket and said, “It’s almost midnight Mrs. H, this is for you …Merry Christmas.”
The package wrapped with golden paper and with a bow of the purest white surprised Sally; she had never seen a more beautiful package. Taking the gift from Manny, Sally was momentary speechless. With childlike excitement, she started to open the present, pausing when she saw the prize within. Inside was a golden key with a small note that looked like an invitation. On the inside it read.
To: Sally Hamilton, a key to your new home.
“Manny…what does this mean?” Sally asked.
“Mrs. H.” Manny said. “You have been such a servant all your life, giving so unselfishly, that my employer wanted to give you something special this Christmas.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, your employer Mr.Reynolds is giving me a house? Sally asked.
Manny, smiling now said, “No Mrs. H, I work for someone a bit higher than Mr. Reynolds. Anyway, I’m just a messenger and I’ll be announcing your arrival there soon.”
“Manny, I still don’t see…” Sally wondered out loud.
“It’s simple, you have been faithful Mrs. H, and the Lord wants you home with Him.” Manny said.
Her eyes widening a bit, Sally whispered, “You mean…I’m really going… oh, I can hardly keep my eyes open, what is happening to me Manny?” Sally asked.
Manny replied softly, “It’s time for a homecoming Mrs. H…Sammy is saving a dance for you”
They were quiet for a few minutes when Sally spoke in a hushed voice and asked, “Am I going to see my Sammy when I open my eyes Manny?’
She was already home when he answered, “Yes Sally, and so much more.”
Jay Cookingham © 2002