There are thoughtful, sometimes provoking and other times sweet, messages in the lyrics of some songs. Seasonal ones sometimes get forgotten during their less popular times. Then they resurface and stir up the pot of memories like a warm stew simmering on the stove. Mary Did You Know (writers Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry) did that for Samantha Perry.
Samantha had heard the song for the first time a few years ago when she was 13. Now, shortly after the birth of her first child as Christmas approached, she heard it again.
Like so many new mothers, Sam was often exhausted. She rarely listened to anything but lullabies now, and she hardly knew music had taken a backseat in her days to the assortment of baby sounds she’d grown accustomed to over the past few months.
Mostly she was oblivious to the date or the time of day. Family and friends laughed and told her this was all so normal, but Samantha didn’t really care one way or the other. She felt she had one mission only, to provide for her child.
It was a chilly Saturday morning when Samantha opened the door to see her grandmother Madeline on the doorstep with her arms full of groceries. She was wrapped up in a fuzzy black jacket and bright red scarf and mittens.
Her boots were new black leather with sparkly buckles, more appropriate for a teenager than a great grandma. But there she was, nevertheless. Samantha beamed at the sight of her. Then she smelled the fresh baked bread nestled amongst the groceries and hustled them both inside.
What happened next was magical. Grandma Madeline made them chamomile tea, and crisp toast from the fresh baked bread, peered at the sleeping great grandchild in the cradle next to the table and then sent Samantha to bed for a short nap. Without hesitation, Samantha moved, weighing each step and gently closed the door to her room.
Opening her eyes hours later she recognized the soft sounds of her baby, the smell of a baking pumpkin pie and the song she remembered from a decade earlier about another mother.
“Grandma,” Samantha said wide eyed after her luxurious nap, “I didn’t worry at all about Abraham while I slept. It was so wonderful. What a lovely gift. Thank you. When did you decide to come for a visit? A surprise arrival, a nap and a pumpkin pie? Is it my birthday?”
“Well it was time I got here to meet this baby and see you again;” Madeline started the conversation as she poured fresh cups of tea, peppermint this time, beckoning Samantha to sit down. She handed her the peaceful baby and after a few sniffs to soak in his smell Samantha laid him back in the cradle so she could enjoy more grandma time.
”You know I’ve been busy with your Uncle Fred since his fall, checking on him every day even though he’s in rehab since he broke his shoulder.” Samantha nodded. “Well, your cousin Alex came for a visit and said I was off duty for a week. He was staying at my house, so he was able to give me a little break and also see how his dad was progressing. I checked last minute flights and the rest is history.”
How long can you stay with us?” Samantha asked, “I head home on Thursday afternoon sweetheart. Give me some recommendations about what you need and I am all yours” Madeline beamed.
“OK then, sit and tell me where that lovely music is coming from?”
“It’s on my phone, honey. Do you know about Spotify?” Madeline watched her granddaughter carefully for a smile of recognition. “Your cousin Alex hooked me up to it before I left. It’s on my phone and I am so excited to be able to listen to Christmas music all month. Remember, when you were little and we played those songs day and night? It drove your dad wild.”
Both women giggled now and had some of their tea which had already cooled off quite a bit. “Yes, I remember Grandma. You never seemed to tire of those songs. I love them all. You even taught me “O Christmas Tree” in German. But tell me, do you know the song that was playing when I woke up? Mary Did You Know?”
Madeline sat back down, now holding little Abraham again. “Yes, I know it Samantha. I have always loved the melody and the words, but it means so much more to me now after years of listening to it. What about you?”
Samantha’s face softened. “I guess I really do believe that mothers know more about their own children than anyone else, especially during this first year of their lives.
I look at my baby and just know he might do great things, and that he is special, that he could grow up to be a person who helps others find the best parts of themselves, leads people to great achievements, shows others love and kindness. So Mary could have known or imagined the greatness ahead for her son.”
“So. how does that make you sad Samantha?” Madeline quietly and perceptively posed.
“Because He died for us and she had to watch.”
Madeline paused, and then spoke as she watched her granddaughter carefully. “But, maybe she was also proud and honored and fulfilled by what happened. It’s possible”.
“Oh, I guess I never thought about it from that perspective Grannie. I see what you mean about things changing as we get older. When I was a kid, I thought it was a dumb song.”
And there’s another angle, Samantha. When I think of this song, I also see your parents looking down at you and seeing God’s likeness. They knew you would achieve great things, help others, uncover your purpose and affect change in the world.”
“Well, lots will change for you and for Abraham as he grows up and finds out who he is meant to be,” Madeline continued.
“You won’t always be in agreement with him, just as your parents weren’t with you, and I wasn’t with your dad. But parents are meant to guide and share and love and teach. They are asked to protect and nurture and provide and patiently do the same things over and over and over again.
And some parents are asked to sacrifice and support and care for children in ways others are not.
You have to take it all and do your very best no matter what they need from you. I know you can do that and more. I’m confident you are ready. And I am here for you when you need to talk about it. When I’m too old you can bring the tea and toast to me.”
Samantha looked up with tears in her eyes and reached for Abraham. She snuggled him and kissed him and said a little prayer over him and then she looked up at her Grandma and said, “Thank you for sharing yourself with me, Granny. You are amazing and wise and I need your comforting now more than ever. It is perfect that you’re here today.”
Madeline had not expected such a thoughtful connection with Samantha during this transition time of mothering. She smiled outward and inward and said a prayer herself for the gifts of her family, the insight into being her authentic self and the gifts that warm our hearts at Christmas.
Deb Ilardi is a registered nurse and has written professionally for decades. She was the Clinical Editor of School Nurse News from 2001-20016. Now she is retired and living in NC with her husband where she enjoys life near the ocean as a freelance writer.