November 26, 2020



“I had a dream about not long ago,” she said. “My sister and I were at the roller rink, skating together to that wonderful music. I never did get very good, but she could really skate. In fact, we all saved up and bought her skates and then later we even got her a case. That was really a big deal, you know, to have your own skates and case.”

Beverly told me how the skating rink had been a favorite place for her sister and her to go. How they would scrape up enough change and walk there together. How gliding around the rink on those skates would provide a bit of respite from their hard life at home.

“Daddy drank,” she told me, “and would beat the living hell out of my mama. She had long hair and he would grab it from behind and swing and throw her around, ‘cause she was just a thin little thing. He was so mean to her. And sometimes he would come home late at night when the house was locked up and pass out on the front porch and pee all over himself. We were so embarrassed because everybody walked to school back then and they’d see him when they passed our house.”

“On Sunday mornings, my sister and I would try to find a church – any church we could get to – just to get away, because he was drunk every damn Saturday night. We just wanted to be out of there. Once I attended a Presbyterian church for a certain number of weeks in a row and they gave me a free Bible. I still have it upstairs.”

“But our favorite thing was to go roller skating.”

Tears came to her eyes and she had to turn away. It was the week of Christmas and I asked about her family. The conversation had meandered into her childhood, and this hard-shelled, funny, coarse, husky-voiced old woman with the wrinkled face and the dark, cluttered house that smelled like stale cigarette smoke grew unusually reflective and quiet. I found myself leaning forward, into her story. She had never opened up and talked so seriously like this before. The change in her demeanor was astounding.

She told how her father ran off to Louisville when she was in her teens. Sometime later a hospital there called and asked her to come and see him and could she help take care of his bill? She didn’t go. Neither did mama or any of her brothers or sisters, save one, and when he got to the room, his own daddy looked up and said, “Who are you?”

One time after that he showed up at their house. When someone told mama, she grabbed a butcher knife and started out of the kitchen after him. But Beverly, pregnant at the time, got between mama and the door and persuaded her not to do it.

1392820468010-skate-7Mama had never remarried, and every single one of the siblings had been married at least twice. Daddy’s drunken doings cast a long shadow.

For years the three of them were close and strong: the woman before me telling her story, along with her sister and mama. But now mama was gone – “for longer than I can remember,” she whispered. And sister died a few years back.

You could tell losing them was the most profound of all her sorrows. She told me, “I love my kids, I really do. But it’s just not the same with them. They didn’t go through what we did together.”

“In the midst of all that pain,” I asked, “do you have some good memories?”

That’s when she told me about roller skating, and then about the dream. “There we were. We didn’t say anything to each other, we just skated. But we were together. And in that dream I felt so peaceful.” She turned and looked out the window, wiping an eye with her sleeve.

“You really miss them at Christmas,” I said after a moment of silence.

“This time of year is hard, yes,” she confessed. “What’s that song? – ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ – I can’t listen to that. There’s a bunch of ‘em that I have to turn off when they come on.”

I wasn’t sure what to say.

“But that’s enough of my sad story,” Beverly said as she slapped her hand on the table.

It was only a few days until Christmas, and as I drove away a waltz was running through my head, with a vision of two young girls feeling safe and free as they glide over polished wood floors, around and around and around.

It’s that time of year when the world falls in love
Ev’ry song you hear seems to say,
“”Merry Christmas, may your New Year dreams come true”
And this song of mine in three-quarter time
Wishes you and yours the same thing, too

Christmas Waltz, Frank Sinatra

And please, Lord, keep speaking peace to Beverly in her dreams.


  1. You certainly said it the best. Words are hard to follow. My Father please help Beverly with forgiveness and someday soon may she release those who have hurt her so bad in her prayers to You. May her burdens be lifted and poured out to You. I asked, Please and thank you. Have mercy and help us all, amen.

    Best I have may it be suitable. Love You Bill

  2. CM,
    Is that second one an actual photo of Beverly and her sister? It’s hard to fix the era it was taken in; there aren’t any visual clues. It could be a photo taken in the 1960s or 70s, and that makes me wonder if it’s them.

  3. And again I say, Happy Solstice to all! Today is one second longer than yesterday, tomorrow will be four seconds longer than today. All is on track. Light shines in the darkness.

    • Interesting, isn’t it, that the first day of winter brings longer lasting light…

      • the solstice marks the turning of the light:

        summer solstice . . . the light lessens,
        the days grow gradually ‘shorter’ of sunlight . . . it was at this time that the Church decided to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, who said of himself:
        “He must increase,
        but I must decrease” (St. John 3:30)

        winter solstice . . . the light grows stronger, the days gradually ‘lengthen’ as the amount of sunlight gradually increases each day . . .
        and it was at this time that the Church chose to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus, who in the Gospel of John is celebrated in these words: ” In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (from St. John’s Gospel, ch. 1)

  4. –> “She told me, ‘I love my kids, I really do. But it’s just not the same with them. They didn’t go through what we did together.'”

    On one hand, I find that really sad. Sad for her, but maybe more so for her children.

    On the other hand, I wonder if this is much different than what veterans experience post-war, who might find the bond between fellow warriors to be stronger than bonds with family.

  5. not all Christmas songs are helpful for those who mourn the loss of loved ones and feel it so strongly at Christmas time, but there are hymns that are calming and peaceful . . . here is one of them:

  6. Every night and every morn
    Some to misery are born.
    Every morn and every night
    Some are born to sweet delight.
    Some are born to sweet delight,
    Some are born to endless night.

    -William Blake

  7. Today my wife had a follow-up visit with her gynecologist after a uterine polyp was surgically removed about a week and a half ago. She called me at work to let me know that the lab results from biopsy of the polyp indicates that there are malignant cells. Christmas Eve morning she has an appointment with her oncologist; if he confirms the results of the lab report with his second opinion, she will need to have a hysterectomy, at the least.

    I haven’t seen her yet since she called me, and won’t for another couple of hours; she wanted to continue her scheduled activities for the day and evening. But I know that she is in a state of shock, as am I. When I spoke with her gynecologist immediately after the surgery, while my wife was still in recovery, she said that the polyp did not appear unusual. My wife and I know from previous experience, when my she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that surgeons can often tell by appearance if whatever they’ve removed is malignant or not, so we took great comfort in this and were not expecting bad news from the lab report.

    This is a difficult blow to receive anytime, but especially on the threshold of Christmas. As a Church musician, the next couple of days will be the busiest of the year for my wife. Fortunately, she scheduled a week off right after Christmas. I couldn’t keep myself from crying at work; it took me an hour to compose myself. I can imagine what my wife must be feeling right now.

    Pray for us.

    • We have had our issues, but my prayers will be with you and your wife this Christmas season and into the New Year.

    • Ah, Robert, the assignments we get. I’m so sorry for what must seem like an especially bitter blow at Christmastide. God’s health and healing and wholeness of body, mind, and spirit for both of you. May His light shine on you and illuminate your path. May His angels watch over you both and lift you both up over what looks like wreckage in this season of supposed joy.

      Most especially may you both be hugged and protected these first few hours while thoughts and emotions sort out and settle down. May God grant you both the freedom to yell and scream if need be, to be angry, to grieve, whatever it takes to take the high ground. Perhaps consider a second opinion when the holidays are past just to make sure your course is set as best able.

      Take heart, my friend. I am so very sorry you both are having such a rough road. May platitudes be few and far between and encouragement in abundance. God bless you both for highest good.

    • I am so sorry, Robert. It is terrible. You and your wife are in my thoughts and prayers. May God walk with you both through this time.

    • Prayers for both of you.

    • David Cornwell says

      Robert, So sorry for this dreadful news. May the peace of Christ be with you both.

    • I will

    • Thanks to all for your prayers and kind words.

    • Your are definitely in our prayers. Church work is especially hard when you are hurting. May Christ ever be our strength for times like this.

      • I can’t imagine running the Christmas gauntlet under those circumstances. I’ll remember your wife as I plod through the next 48 hours of rehearsals and services.

    • Robert, I am so sorry to read this. We will be praying. I hope your wife is getting a much needed pause after what must have been an extraordinarily long couple of days.

  8. Thank you for this, Chaplain Mike — for this post and for your work with Beverly and so many others.