y wife Sue and I spent Christmas 2012 in Indiana with my in-laws Orv and Elaine. It was always so Christmasy there — a fully decorated tree, green and red candles, angels on the shelves, and Christmas carols playing in the kitchen. Grandma Elaine received a book from her daughter Paula; an eight-page children’s book that told the story of the birth of Jesus. It was one of those recordable books that contains a microchip that could record any voice, saving it for playback at any time. Elaine suggested that she and her husband, Grandpa Orv, record the book for the family to hear over the years. Orv liked the idea, and they agreed to record four pages each.
Chosen to assist in the recording phase, I sat at the dining room table with Grandma Elaine first. She read the pages out loud to practice them, and as I pressed the correct buttons, she read the first four pages. We listened to the recorded pages hearing Grandma Elaine’s warm and wise voice as she told of the star, the town and the shepherds.
Grandpa Orv was next. He had not been well for the last several years, suffering from cancer for 13 years, as well as complications of the treatments he had endured. Despite his weakened state, he walked himself to the table, cane assisting him all the way. He gladly jumped into the project with as much energy as he could muster. He repeated Elaine’s process — he practiced each page, and then spoke them again as I pressed the buttons to record his four pages. His first page was a bit shaky, so we re-recorded it. After that, he got stronger and stronger with each page. By the time he finished his four pages about Mary, Joseph and the angels, he was as strong as he had been in a long time.
We knew it was likely our last Christmas with Orv — and that became a fact when he died 37 days later in a hospice center, his wife and his three daughters at his side. Two months later as his family gathered for the Easter weekend, out came that recorded book of the Christmas story. We smiled and grinned as we listened to Elaine’s portion, and as Orv’s voice appeared, the tears welled up, but the joy of hearing him again warmed our hearts.
When we go back this Christmas, the tree and the angels, the candles and the carols will still be there. But this year, Grandpa Orv’s voice will be added to the qualities of the season as we listen to him tell his part of the Christmas story.