Quiet Beauty of the Season

Child on the Mall

It’s the week before Christmas on the local mall at the height of holiday buy-season. It is late—near closing, which is 11pm. Of course, the storefronts are adorned to the max in festive holiday décor. The opulent commercialism doesn’t bother me a bit.

It felt childlike cool in those last shopping-minutes to be among the few remaining stragglers in a vast Holiday Wonderland—kind of like having a whole amusement park all to myself!  I smiled as I pondered that one and my holiday cheer rang up a notch. Just another reason to love Christmas—even at 50 years old, I can still feel like a child on the mall. And so I did.

That’s why The Sadness stunned me off guard.

The Sadness

It happened as I browsed the shelves in the Hallmark store inspecting the greeting card selections. Shopping the elegant assortments, I chance on a nondescript carton of two-color prints with plain white envelopes and no glitter. I was not impressed. Still, I casually glance at the “Inside Message” stamped on the back of the box.

I read the simple inscription and know at once it is meant for me. The Sadness suddenly grips me with a vengeance.

Let’s see, what does the greeting say? I read the simple inscription and I know at once that it is meant for me. I pause, blink and read it again. The Sadness suddenly grips me with a vengeance.

I know The Sadness well.  But I have been doing good with it and it doesn’t come much anymore. Rare when it does, I feel it welling up and it is fleeting.  Never has it been this intense without warning.  So there is no chance holding back.

The child within leaves me. These are tears meant for adults only.

I face the wall; bow my head in my hands; and choke back tears quietly (I hope), surrounded by cartons of Christmas cards alone in the back of the Hallmark store.  The child within leaves me. These are tears meant for adults only.

Second Soundless Christmas

The allure of the holidays plays positive on every human sense—brilliant ornaments, sparking wines, fragrant candles, lavish banquets and precious gifts; love and peace; and the awe of God Himself—and rejoicing all of these wonders with the beautiful sound of music.  If it is true, as they say, that Angels in Heaven sing, surely it is Christmas carols!

If it is true that Angels in Heaven sing, surely it is Christmas carols!

This is my second deaf Christmas.* I have never been more grateful that Its joyous sound pealed glorious every wonderful year of my life, except in the last two. I hear no music now and I miss it awful.  It’s even more difficult this year because I have forgotten the sound of the sound. I know the lyrics to Silent Night, but I can’t play the tune in my head anymore. I can recite every precious lyric but the melody is strangely unknown to me.  Last Christmas, I knew it. But now I can’t remember.

*Originally written in December, 2011

Losing the memory of beautiful sounds is the most peculiar development since my deaf adventure began. And now I discover in a Hallmark store that it haunts me most at Christmas.

Back at the Store

The mall closes in 11 minutes.  I am the only patron in the Hallmark store. I swallow hard and wipe my face with the cuff of my jacket. But my eyes stay teary-red. I could tell she noticed, but the lady at the cash register pretended not. People don’t know what to say when they see a grown man cry.

Not to mention that this poor lady looked pretty holiday-beaten herself. I can tell she just wants my sorry soul out of there. Bah, humbug! So without a merry word between us, I purchase a box of the bargain-budget greeting cards and hurry out of the store.

The mall is nearly empty now. Store gates are half-mast or locked down firm. The security guy roams the gallery shooing the few remaining patrons to the nearest exits.

My car is parked all the way at the other end of the complex. I trudge there slowly glancing at the holiday décor as I go.

Looks nice, I whisper

March of Christmas Castle

christmas_shutterstock_154974956And it really did.  Tall pines lined the gallery floor adorned in crimson and gold. Huge crystal snowflakes glisten from the rafters.  Angelic statues seem to smile at me as I pass.  Hundreds of vivid-red poinsettias greet me at every turn. My moist eyes twinkled back at the infinite sparkle of Christmas lights every step of the merry way.

I need to cheer myself up. That’s what I need. I look around the festive mall and I see no one. I imagine not a soul is there. Just me. I pretend for one brief magic-moment that I had just marched through the grand halls of a Christmas Castle that was mine alone.

I mumble to myself that I’m going nuts and chuckle at my whimsy.  Still, the walk—real and imaginary—did me good. My heart warms a bit and I feel better.

All the Quiet Beauty

Now at the exit, I look back across the gallery. Every fixture in the building is still on high beam. I hear precisely nothing in the peaceful stillness as the ceiling lights shine on all the quiet beauty of the season that God graced my eyes to see tonight!

Looks awesome, I whisper. And it really did!

I reach for my box of greeting cards and I again read the missive. This time I smile.  I read it again. I smile more. The child in me returns; I exit the mall and go home.

This year my Christmas card greeting prays the following to my loved ones, friends and you:

Wishing you all the quiet beauty of the season.

Indeed I do.

Merry Christmas!  

Love, Brian

Please reply by sharing your comments at the bottom of this page!  

20 replies
  1. Christopher Jensen says:

    Brian – your poignant and eloquently expressed holiday message attained a new depth in meaning with the passing of our sister Eileen in 2014.

    Your message inspired Eileen and you remarkably captured Eileen’s earlier response in 2011 to your message in this very blog.

    As a result of your holiday message – Eileen wrote “Your gifts to others with your writings remind me everyday of my gift of life. Your support makes me thankful to enjoy the silent beauty of the season. “

    It is an amazing gift to all of us that your holiday message both inspired and captured that sentiment from Eileen.

    To borrow one last time from Eileen’s words “Merry Christmas dear brother”

  2. Cris says:

    Thanks Brian for sharing this story, and for your beautiful words. It was very touching. You are an amazing person, and a wonderful writer/speaker. Hugs to you! I miss you, and wish you a Happy Happy Christmas. Until we meet again my friend:)

  3. Maria says:

    Beautifully written, Brian. We’ve talked before about Angels and I truly believe we come in contact with one every day. Today for me that is you! Thank you for all you have done for me in my times of need.

  4. Doug says:

    Ugh. I understand the sadness. Rare as it is these days the intensity is the same as ever. It always either starts in my head or comes unannounced like the one you describe. This is the first light hearted Holiday Season I have had in 15 years. These episodes seem to space themselves out now and occur without any single theme. My dad. My brother. My failings. Others I can’t remember or don’t want to remember today. They are all good for me. They all remind me that there is work to do to make sure I don’t ever fall into the hole again. There was no hope down there. Now there is always hope. Thanks Brian for your words and your friendship.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing your inspriation for the season. Your story did bring tears to my eyes. I wish you all the best!


  6. Melodie says:

    Oh, that was so beautifully written it brought tears to MY eyes as I continued reading. I spent yesterday at the mall with my sister and nieces. The mall used to bring back happy childhood memories; the lights, the smells, the general happy bustle of the holiday season. But there was something missing – the music. Without it, it wasn’t the same. There is a difference between you and I though, I can hear. Still, there was no music in that mall.

    Later that evening we talked about how much we missed the music in the mall and what a difference it made. We talked about that feeling of being a child at Christmas. It is amazing how everything connected with the senses pulls together and becomes the memory. Feeling that excitement and anticipation coursing through your veins, bringing a smile to your lips, and once again bringing back that childhood euphoria.

    We both missed the music – but for very different reasons. Thank you for sharing your very beautiful and touching thoughts.

  7. Jim says:

    Thanks for the words of hope and inspiration !
    Continue to be positive and hopeful for yourself
    and your fellow man.Please keep up the good work.

    Cousin Jimmy

  8. Eileen says:

    Beautiful experience. I feel like I was there with you. Your gifts to others with your writings remind me everyday of my gift of life. Your support makes me thankful to enjoy the silent beauty of the season. Our childhood memories of Christmas are like videos without sound and are loved just the same. Merry Christmas my dear brother !

  9. Karen Vogan says:

    Brian, I appreciate your story and can relate. I’ve come to appreciate the visuals of the holiday, the smells, and other offerings the season provides for my remaining senses. It will take time, but you are so very much doing all the right things in your acceptance of this new life.

    In response to the part where you explain: “I know the lyrics to Silent Night, but I can’t play the tune in my head anymore.” –
    Yesterday, I was at Nordstrom, doing last minute shopping and humming the holiday carols to myself (softly, I “thought”). My “version” has been amusing and perhaps sometimes annoying to my husband and my staff as I’ve been singing to my own special tune all month long. The woman next to me (perhaps she was having a harried day?) actually stopped me to tell me I was singing it all wrong.

    I pointed to my hearing aid and said “Ya think?” and went on my merry way … still singing “Rocking Around the Xmas Tree.”

    Have a Hap-Hap-Happy Holiday, everyone! Great story Brian and good for you for going a little deeper to appreciate the true significance of its meaning. I enjoyed reading it.

    Happy Holidays to everyone!

  10. Greg says:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowlage him , and he will make your path straight. Your an inspiration to all of us Brian, and a dear friend! Merry Christmas!

  11. Karen says:

    Thank you for this post. It is a reminder that its the small things in life that matter most. As always in your blog, I feel your pain and your joy. It is raw right there on the page.

    Love, K

  12. Kate says:

    Thank you Brian. You give me hope and I pause to remember what the season is all about! Have a very happy and peaceful holiday and see you soon!

    • Odette says:

      Wonderful story, Brian. I am so proud of what you have accomplished in the past two years. You are a remarkable person and I pray for you whenever I do pray, which is turning out to be more frequently than in past years. Bless you in 2012 and we’ll see each other for sure.

      Lots of love,



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