The Christmas Miracle and the Music Box

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

She was 82 years old. Sweet, frail, and maybe 4ft 8 inches tall.
She had tons of grandchildren,
a few great-grand children and her beloved children.

They all grew up knowing that family was their core. Their base, their home where love resided.
It was only a few days before Christmas and Mrs. Mary entered our ICU.
COPD. She lived with this for a long time…but this time it crippled her.
O2 nasal cannula, small amounts of morphine IVP for comfort to help her breathe, and to help her relax.

The family gathered around and while in ICU they decided on a group session. Which included her ICU physician, a nurse (me), and the respiratory therapist.
We discussed DNR, DNI and Comfort Care measures.

And behind the tears that welled up in Mrs Mary’s eyes, she spoke to all of us:
“I have lived a wonderful and fruitful life. My beloved husband passed away 10 years ago. I still love him and I still miss him.
I will miss you here on earth, but please know that my spirit will always be with you. I’m ready to go be at peace with my Maker and with my husband. I will be your guardian Angel and look after all of you.”

We all had tears in our eyes.
It was a defining moment.
This 82 year old dear soul, totally cognizant , totally alert and oriented, and she made her decision. No CPR. No crushing of her ribs. No ventilator. Just her wish to be with her family and die in peace.

Her little 5 year old granddaughter…. Walked up to her “memaw” and presented her with a Christmas present that she picked out herself!!
Little Amelia had a music box with an Angel on top. As Mrs. Mary wound up the music box, Out softly came the music: The first Noel the angels did say….🎶

They hugged each other and promised to be with her the next Christmas morning.

That next day, Christmas morning, a light snow filled the hospital canvas. It was a quiet day. A peaceful day.
Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had just arrived to wish their “Memaw” a Merry Christmas.
As they walked into her room, they noticed Mrs Mary had her eyes closed. Agonal breathing.

Mrs. Mary let out her last breath.
She died with a peaceful smile.
And in her lap, between her hands, she held to the final moment the Angel music box.
We all held hands, hugged each other in this tender moment.

It was Mrs Mary’s first Noel in heaven.
“The first Noel the angels did say….”
And her family realized that she was the Angel. Their forever Angel.
Easily singing with her husband now and surrounded by many other angels.

Me and “The Music Man” and oh the memories

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I know every word to every Broadway musical play from back in the 1950’s through the 1960’s and beyond. Daddy would buy the vinyl records of the latest musicals.

Our sad lives filled with anguish, anger and neglect from our mother would diminish for another shining moment with daddy and his music.

It was our moment of infused happiness with my two sisters as the music would play as dad would put another vinyl record on his record player.

The Music Man was special. We’d run around in our pajamas as we sang “Shipoopi”…. We thought this may be a naughty word but we were allowed to sing it.

We’d hold hands and dance in circles with endless giggles to the music.
We became the imaginary orchestral band with pretend trombones….. “76 trombones led the big parade.”🎶

It was those magical moments I remembered as I watched recently “The Music Man” in NYC.

I found myself tearing up with each song.
Each song that brought back those sweet memories of our innocent youth.

Eventually, dad moved up the corporate ladder with IBM and we transferred from New Jersey to the Carolinas. Away from his mom and dad who came straight from Ireland.
Far away from my mom’s parents who had landed in America from Italy.

Dad was a computer director expert. When with the birth of computers they stood as tall as a washing machine or refrigerator. With each promotion, came the bigger house on the right side of town, the private school we went to, the lake house with the matching boat. The infidelities, the gambling, and then the endless drinking.

As a teenager I watched my dad walk into the walls from too much drinking. Our so called fairy tale life had come to an end and came crashing down on us.

We were called to the kitchen table for a “family meeting”. Dad had taken an “early retirement” at 45 years old. It was just another fabrication. Because my parents lived off of lies. Dad was terminated from his big corporate job. That was the truth. Alcoholism. But that was hush hush.
The large house was just a facade as the inside told the truth. Curtains closed dark inside… and that became our life as we painfully grew up into awareness.

Every song I teared up, some tears trickled down as I remembered that once whimsical time in our lives as youngsters.

I’m not angry. I’m not really even sad anymore.
Because I’m thankful that my dad was able to give us a magical time in our youth.

For one brief shining moment…. We were in that band with 76 trombones. We were in that parade with shiny uniforms on and drums and cymbals and clarinets ….

Metaphorically…. Daddy was our music man…who left his mark of joy and spirit for us three children to last us a lifetime!!!

Photo: “The Music Man”
“The Music Man” written by: Meredith Wilson

The Vacuum

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I retired from nursing this June of 2022.
I was so happy and relieved that I no longer had to do this.
But even at my age of 66…. I’m still trying to find myself.

The house that once seemed very small with me and my husband and our three children and many neighborhood children laughing and playing and dancing and singing … and climbing into my van to go to the next adventure… the amusement park, roller skating, swimming, a few cruises and Disneyland and the Bahamas and Mexico ….and teaching our children right from wrong. Good from bad.
How to study, how to learn how to be serious and how to have fun and how to be sincere.
And now that house that once seemed so small and so filled with family and friends, is very large to me.
Just me and my 2 dogs.
My husband died 5 years ago. Our children are grown, all college educated with careers and spouses and then some grandchildren.

It’s such a vacuum.

I wanted our children to have the best.
I wanted my children to have fun and enjoy their childhood.
I worked many hours a week. Many times 60 hours a week. So they could have nice clothes. So they wouldn’t be laughed at.

I wanted them to have everything I didn’t have.

We encouraged curiosity and education and music and sports.
Their home plate was love.

And now the quiet still.
I’m not sure if I accomplished enough.
Did I stay on the right path.
Where do I go from here?
Do I die in my sleep?
Do I finally become that author that I’ve always wanted.
Do I hope that I’ll infiltrate my granddaughters with my genetic love?

It’s a vacuum.

It’s a reflection and retracing my steps backwards of what I should have done. What I could have done. And knowing that I broke the cycle of my parents alcoholism, of their negativity, of their ultimate repeated taunts of failure towards myself.

I’m hoping that if there is one more second left in my life…. I will be given the nod of approval.
That I did the best I could to break the cycle I was raised with. To break the cycle of a bad and unfaithful marriage from my husband.

That I can hold my head up and know that I have passed on to generations to come of strong, happy, insightful people.
To pass the torch for the betterment of mankind.

It’s a simple thought but also a sky full of galaxies thought.
I pray I’ve made a mark.
A profound mark…. One day at a time.