Three au­thors’ most mem­o­rable Christ­mases

Christ­mas can be mov­ing, mag­i­cal and poignant all at once. Here, three au­thors share their mem­o­ries of a won­der­ful cel­e­bra­tion

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - HELLO! - by Kate Eastham

So many years have gone by since I was a first-year stu­dent nurse, yet I can still smell the hos­pi­tal dis­in­fec­tant and hear my black shoes tap­ping a rhythm on the pol­ished floor of the cor­ri­dor as I walked to the ward that morn­ing – my first Christ­mas away from home.

I brushed past the Christ­mas tree be­fore go­ing up the pol­ished wood stair­case that led to my ward, ar­riv­ing at the ward of­fice just in time for the re­port from Sis­ter.

When Sis­ter was fin­ished she would al­ways say with a stern glance at us stu­dents, ‘Now girls, get on with the work and let’s make sure the pa­tients have ev­ery­thing they need.’

But that Christ­mas morn­ing she smiled as well. Sis­ter never smiled! ‘Merry Christ­mas,’ she said, ‘and when you’re ready for a break, we’ll go into the side room for mince pies and cof­fee.’

‘Thank you, Sis­ter,’ we mum­bled, glanc­ing at each other. Out on the ward, there was plenty of work to do – peo­ple don’t stop be­ing ill just be­cause it’s Christ­mas. It was busi­ness as usual and, for me, that was good.

Once we were busy, the heav­i­ness that I’d felt about be­ing away from my fam­ily on Christ­mas morn­ing, dis­ap­peared. Our pa­tients needed us. They were in hos­pi­tal – and back then vis­it­ing hours were very lim­ited, so they were also sep­a­rated from their loved ones. Some of them didn’t even have any fam­ily. But they all had a gift that day, Sis­ter made sure of that.

There were plenty of smiles and jokes, and when the work was done and all the beds were made ac­cord­ing to Sis­ter’s in­struc­tion, we were ready.

That’s when the Sal­va­tion Army band started to play at the bot­tom of the stairs.

The sound of Once in Royal David’s City came flood­ing onto the ward and into our hearts. I felt goose bumps on my arms as the mu­sic swelled and I stood still, see­ing the faces of the pa­tients. Women who’d lived through at least one World War, taken back to Christ­mases long ago, to loved ones, lost times. Even Sis­ter wiped a tear from her eye.

My own tears flow now ev­ery year when I hear a ‘Sally Army’ band play. In­stantly I’m there, a girl of 18 in a nurse’s uni­form, stand­ing next to Sis­ter on the ward at the In­fir­mary. Shar­ing that spe­cial mo­ment with those women one Christ­mas morn­ing, long ago.

✿ Kate Eastham’s miss Nightin­gale’s Nurses, pub­lished by Pen­guin, is out now

‘I felt goose bumps on my arms as the mu­sic swelled’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.