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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

The Kiss: A Christmas Story

"O Holy Night" is significant to me and my family. It was very important to my father, because he sang it in his youth as a soloist at the "Holderness Boys School." We have a cherished photo of him in his white choir robe from those precious days gone by. He had a beautiful, full voice.

I came across a wonderful arrangement of “O Holy Night.” It became a Christmas Eve tradition for me to perform it as a trumpet solo at a local church and with my very musical children at family gatherings. It was our thing.

My father sat in the audience with tears in his eyes as I played it with much love and emotion. When I finished, we locked eyes and shared a smile as I took a bow. Then, he always blew me a kiss. About three weeks before he died, he sat me down and asked if I would play "O Holy Night" at his funeral. He was gravely ill for many years, so we were beyond the "Don't say that… you aren't going to die" conversation. So I agreed to that (in addition to "When the Saints Go Marching In" when they carried his casket out of the church and "Taps" at his burial). He died in the month of April.

So yes, at his funeral I played the same arrangement of “O Holy Night” that I performed on my trumpet for all those Christmas Eves that I innocently wanted to believe would continue forever. It was quite a challenge, because I was overcome with emotion and struggled to breathe. However, I summoned the strength and focus to carry on in the spirit of our shared love. I was somewhat shattered because there was no joy, no smile, and the absence of the blowing of the kiss settled deeply in my bones. The tears were all wrong.

Now whenever I hear “O Holy Night,” I am immediately transported to the lovely, candlelit church on a snowy Christmas Eve while trying to breathe in the unique greenness of spring. I sense the warmth of my father’s smile, his love in and around me, and then sadness slowly emerges. If I can, I usually turn it off.

I have always loved music. It was my profession for many years until I arrived at a crossroads that took me down a completely new path. It was a time to spread my wings, which I did. I trusted the process. The music is never really gone. I carry it in the deepest part of me. I do believe in that Holy Night, and that I am finally ready to pick up my somewhat tarnished horn and play it. It is time to honor myself, my gifts, and the love of my father. I am open now. I feel the kiss. Merry Christmas. Photo: Ramsey W. Pettengill

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