The fireplace was beautiful. A large ten foot wooden plank topped a wall of rounded field stones. My Grandpa built that fireplace. Twinkling lights, statues, bowling trophies, and angels decorated the mantel. The wood crackled and snapped as the Fire roared, the sweet smell of smoke lightly scenting the room. The fireplace was part of our family, always lit when we gathered together at my Grandparent's home in the woods.
The room was full of family...cousins and second cousins, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. Our voices united as we sang Christmas carols along with Grandma's old player piano, a ritual that has lasted for years. "Get your guitar out Barbie!" someone says. So I pull out my guitar and let the piano take a rest. A rousing version of Jingle Bells ensues.
My Grandpa Barton was a mechanical engineer and college professor who swore he couldn't carry a tune. That fact was confirmed by many members of the family.
But I found out it was a lie.
At the last Christmas celebration of his life, the family was once again together, singing songs of the holiday. I was seated right next to the fire and Grandpa was on the foot stool directly in front of me.
"What do you want to sing next?' I asked.
Grandpa said, "Silent Night."
And so we began.
I had to lean forward a bit and tilt my head to hear, but Grandpa was singing. Softly, tenderly. It was the voice of an angel. The most beautiful version of Silent Night I have ever heard. His pale blue eyes framed by raised eyebrows gave a look of extreme sincerity, as though he were singing to baby Jesus himself. Tears welled up in my eyes.
My Grandpa passed away in the fall of that year, but he left me with a memory I will never forget. When I sing Silent Night, I see and hear him sweetly singing right along with me.
Merry Christmas Grandpa.