“I'll Be Home for Christmas” has since gone on to become a Christmas standard. The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during ‘World War 11’. The soldier is writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family he will be coming home and to make the necessary preparations. He requests snow, mistletoe, and presents on the tree. The song ends on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."
There will be many people who would love to be home for Christmas, was it possible and circumstances did not prevent them. Some serving soldiers will be laid in some military hospital with images of mutilated limbs. We still have serving soldiers abroad who are rarely mentioned in the national press. There will be some people in society who would love to have a home; any type of home ‘to come home to’ instead of being accommodated in substandard overcrowded rented accommodation with young children. Some people will leave their house this Christmas and will not come back because of incurring deadly strokes, massive heart attacks, or fatal road accidents.
Several years ago, I took my wife and daughter out for their Christmas dinner. We had to abandon the meal halfway through it, and the day after, I was rushed into hospital. I’d already been diagnosed with a terminal blood cancer a few years earlier and had experienced nine months of chemotherapy. My cancer had transformed into a Lymphoma and I spent the following six weeks in the hospital in critical condition. Unknown to either myself or my wife, a hospital medic had put a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ instruction on me (which we only discovered a year later when I was in hospital undertaking another procedure and the nurse performing the procedure made a passing remark about it in my hospital file). Although I did not think that I was dying of Lymphoma at the time, another nine-month course of chemotherapy was commenced and had to be discontinued partway through because my body wasn’t strong enough to endure it. I will not forget lying awake throughout most of the night, being unable to sleep with the body pain and discomfort while the rest of the country was still enjoying the Christmas festivities.
Several years along the line, and now having three different body cancers to cope with (two of them incurable) and still in tier-three restrictions during a pandemic virus, I know that ‘I’ll be home this Christmas’. I have rented the holiday home next door to our house for my son, William, and my only daughter, Rebecca, to stay the week. We had a Christmas Day meal together, and it was lovely catching up with my daughter who I have not seen since last Christmas, and my son, William, who has been living in Australia for many years and who I have not seen for three years.
Having recently learned that the hospital will not medically intervene in my cancers until they worsen as they reach their later stages, this song reminds me of my three important homes that these days occupy my mind, and which I use as landing posts throughout my remaining time on this side of the green sod. Just as Charles Dicken’s character, Oliver Twist, dared to ask for ‘more’, I also perceive greediness in me develop as my appetite to have a bit more life grows daily, especially as it has been so happy an experience for me since I met my lovely wife, Sheila, ten years ago.
Each night as I lay in bed, I look forward to tomorrow in our Haworth home. Each December, I look forward to one more spring up at our allotments, pleasured by our own floral heaven and an abundance of new home-grown spuds from May to November. Each Spring, I look forward to one more visit to my homeland of Ireland, if possible, in the summer months. Our house, our allotment. and the Irish village where I was born to represent the vital aspects of what ‘Home’ has come to mean to me in the autumn of my life. Of course, my children are a large part of my life, and our home is always theirs.
After the summer months, I automatically look forward to next Christmas. Being in the autumn of one’s life is very much like being at the start of infancy in some regard; one retraces one’s footsteps of growth with each fleeting memory, and I learn to take one step at a time, as the future is explored with experience anew. And just as the child progresses from crawl to totter, to walk without the parent noticing the passage of time, so it is from one Christmas to the next with me these days: they seem to go quicker and quicker. Most will know what I speak of as ‘old age’ but to me, the living of another month is every bit a ‘new age’ for a person who has been on borrowed time for many years now.
Sheila and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love and peace Bill xxx