The Word of God

Meet Carl, Christmas Class of 2020

senior man in graduation robe shouting for joy with arms up in air

She had always wanted to be a nurse and why she chose the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to graduate and start work will remain a mystery only to be unveiled hopefully in her lifetime. But maybe she won’t have to wait too long to unravel that personal enigma.

Carl was her very first patient on the floor and no one could have asked for a more cooperative, compliant, and friendly man who, with his lovely wife, were so good to her.

She came to work on this mid-December week just a little perturbed because of the wreck on the freeway, more rude drivers, and the fact that her stomach was growling louder than a den of bears about to wake from hibernation caused by the unavoidable lack of time for breakfast. She rushed into the breakroom where most of the other nurses gathered and tried to start that first cup of cinnamon spice coffee that always seemed to jumpstart the morning for her while she shot a glance over to the bulletin board where people posted cars for sale, apartments for rent, and other sundry items including newspaper clippings featuring obituaries of the famous and not-so-famous, among them, at times, some of the former patients on their floor. Her eyes panned the selections and with a little shock in a gentle gasp, she spotted the obituary for her friend and patient Carl:

“The Angels came on December 1, 2020 to escort Carl to the Gates of Heaven to be with his Lord and Savior. He will be remembered for always having a smile on his face and looking for ways to make people laugh.  He never met a stranger and is loved by everyone who met him.”

“‘Yup,’ she thought, that’s right on. I wonder how his wife is doing.” Her thoughts catapulted her back just ten days earlier when, on her day off, with a few other nurse friends who were involved with hospice, decided to drop by the RV Community Park to visit with Carl and his wife. She remembered the scene quite well and recalled how everything was decorated for Christmas especially the comfortable and well illuminated bedroom where Carl lay with Christmas lights and decorations everywhere. There was literally no corner without something flashing, glowing, or shouting, “Merry Christmas!” She recalled a comment she heard in reference to how one of her teachers loved this season and made it clear by the way he adorned every nook and cranny with festive adornment: “If Santa Clause had a house, this is what it would look like!” She also recalled that one white Christmas tree strewn with red lights and all-red ornaments that looked like a giant peppermint cane. Carl was profoundly and keenly proud of the ornament that lay atop the tree: a large, red bulb with his and his wife’s name on it with the name JESUS in large glittered- applique right in the middle of them.

She also recalled one of her last conversations with Carl. She remembered how he was afraid to die understandably as anyone would have some trepidation about what the next few seconds will present after we take our last breath. For some strange reason, at least in her thinking, Carl was actually doubting his welcome into Paradise. Was there something he needed to reveal, confess, or otherwise release from his heart before it was time to go? From what he told her and the others, which was clearly corroborated by his family and closest friends, Carl had lived a very full, generous, and happy life. Perhaps he was just scared of the unknown and so the kind nurse said what instinctively came into her heart: “The good news is, Carl, is that you passed everything. You passed! Did you hear me? All you have to do now is wait for graduation. Just think of it!” He seemed to find great solace in those words and never asked about it again.

A few days later, she went to see him on a windy, sunny, Sunday afternoon and it was clear that the end was near. “What day is it?’ he asked her. “It’s Sunday, Carl,” she responded. “Can you read some Scripture for me? What is the Gospel for today?” he implored.

The young nurse scrambled with her phone and remembered how her parish priest had published the readings for each day of the year and she quickly found the ones for Sunday. She read slowly and deliberately from the Gospel according to St. Matthew:

“Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’”

It would be the last sermon Carl would ever hear on this earth. He motioned to his wife that he wanted to sit up one last time and with the help of the other visiting nurses, he did, ever so delicately and gingerly to give his wife one last hug before lowering himself with their help back down into his bed where he took a nap and never woke up again. He had understood and had finally graduated into Eternal Life.

At his wake service, the kind nurses and the staff at his wife’s workplace put together a different kind of eulogy. They wanted everyone to hear/read the last sermon Carl had so passionately requested concerning the five talents distributed to all by God. Here is what they dispersed:

Talent One 

EYES – the gift of sight.
Think of the ability to see and comprehend the world around us and God’s presence in it.

Talent Two 

EARS – the gift of listening.
Think of the ability to remain quiet in front of a sunrise or sunset, a friend who is telling us about their day and life, and before God in prayer.

Talent Three 

NOSE – the gift of smell.
Think of the ability to appreciate the fragrance of this created world and be soothed by the texture of nature’s aroma.

Talent Four 

MOUTH – the gift of speech.
Think of the ability to communicate and heal with words that are formed in your mind and expressed with your heart.

Talent Five 

TOUCH – our effect on others.
Think of how wonderful it is to be held, to accept the congratulatory handshake or the firm and reassuring pat on the back. Good touches warm the heart.

Before everyone went their separate ways, Carl’s wife of forty-five years unexpectedly and uncharacteristically stood up to say a few closing words. She explained that none of us can bury these talents any more than we can hide from the expectations that are thrust upon us. The lessons are irrefutable. Success, especially when reflected upon at the end of one’s life, is a product of our work. God always gives us everything we need to do what He has called us to do. In the mystery of this awesome human life, we are not all created equally with the same gifts and talents. None of us can render judgment on another. We work for the Master, not our own selfish purposes, and because of that fundamental and critical reason, we will all be held accountable.

“Merry Christmas, everybody! “she called out with tears in her eyes. “It’s time to finish the masterpiece!”

Carl had in fact graduated and it was time to celebrate into silent nights of comfort and joy.

Share your thoughts (26 thoughts)

26 thoughts on “Meet Carl, Christmas Class of 2020”

  • Oh my goodness! What a beautiful and amazing article! Thank you for reminding us that God indeed equips each one of us with the resources/tools/talents to fulfill our assigned ministry in life. Our God given talents, which are found within our soul, become refined and in tune with those things that surround us each day, particularly during the Christmas season. Thank you again for this beautiful and amazing article. Your articles are truly like a breath of fresh air to the soul!

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back, Sandy, and thank you for reminding all of us about how the Lord truly equips us all for the road ahead. Your kind words will reverberate for many of us as we move forward in Fatih!

  • Gabriel says:

    I am deeply moved by these articles and look forward to the messages that they express. The talents we have are meant to be shared and that’s exactly what you are doing. Thank you for your inspirational writings.

    • Caro says:

      Gabriel, as this has been a challenging year for so many of us, I am grateful for the time you’ve spent this year reading and responding to these pages. May the New Year bring the greatest amount of graces to face the greatest amount of challenges ahead!

  • Anonymous says:

    Our talents are to be shared and that is exactly what you are doing in this blog. So many people are benefitting from your blog. I am deeply moved by the inspirational articles. Looking forward to the next one

  • Margo Vice says:

    What an amazing story! When God gives you a gift, it’s up to you to do something with that gift. If we do nothing, we’ve wasted a beautiful chance to leave beautiful blessings in the world. God gives us gifts and we need to be open to understand where our gifts are best utilized. Thank you for sharing this awesome story!!!

    • Caro says:

      Yes, indeed, Margo, He does give us all that we need to remain faithful in this life and ready for the next! May your new year be full of spiritual adventure into growth and wonderful gifts from above!

  • Jennifer Vega says:

    Thank you so much for your stories! They all touch my heart so much. Please consider doing a pod cast! I miss hearing the word of God from you. God speaks through you. Merry Christmas, Happy Nee Year❤️❤️

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Jennifer, for your kind words and the suggestion of a podcast. We will certainly take this idea into the near future! Enjoy the passing of one year into another one with all the graces ready for you from our dear Lord Jesus

  • Deborah says:

    What a beautiful story!! I could relate to it since I just lost my sister a month ago. Thank you so much for writing this story. It brings me such peace especially during this holiday season. Many blessings for the new year.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back to these pages, Deborah, and thank you for reminding us of yet another aspect of the Christmas Mystery: Healing. We often overlook that gift under the Christmas tree lodged within our souls because of the high emphasis on merriment and singing and the quintessential joyous attitudes that surround those who love this time of year. While we send to you our deepest condolences, we also remember the many who also carry a grieving heart at Christmas. Our readers join each other at this wondrous time to wish all, especially you, Deborah, the gift of comfort and joy wrapped in the Lord’s manger where we could all be fed for these days and most specifically for the new year ahead. “Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glitter and glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago.”

  • Denise Guerra says:

    This is a great story of the five talents, a story that I didn’t truly understand until recently. God gives us everything we need to accomplish our everyday challenges, but He gives us so much more in the subtle way he guides us to not only benefit our lives but to, hopefully, enrich the lives of those we interact with. I pray that I am using the talents that I have been given to be a light and a blessing to those around me. I look forward to this blessed season of Christmas and pray that others will see the Christ child through me, that I may be a blessing to others. Merry Christmas!

    • Caro says:

      Christmas greetings to you Denise and thank you for reminding all of us that God gives us those talents not only to accomplish His will here on earth but also to strengthen each other especially in the most trying of times. This past year most readily comes to mind. Your spiritual desire to have people see and witness the Christ Child through you is also apparent. Praise the Lord Jesus! “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”

  • Tony Montez says:

    As a mental health clinician I’m humbled at times and, quite honestly, feel somewhat inadequate when working with severe cases of human suffering. I know my client’s prognosis is poor and their condition will most likely worsen. My therapeutic premise is that the human condition unavoidably includes suffering. It’s not arbitrary or meaningless. Rather, some of our most significant emotional growth in life occurred through suffering. Our journey involves discovering meaning as it’s revealed. Last night I watched a movie titled “Happy” about a therapist that felt he was wasting his life and not helping anyone. He went on a journey around various parts of the world to research happiness. He was intimating his plight to an attractive lady in a bar. She was attentive as he described how he didn’t feel like his service came from a place of helpful authentic love. The nice lady said, “listening is loving.” Yes! Of course, Talent Two.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back and Merry Christmas, Dr. Montez, and thank you once again for your insights and quintessential search for happiness which inevitably brings us to the simplest of mysteries found nestled in our talents. May we all be as blessed as the Shepherds and humbled as the Magi this Christmas go-around. Thank you for all the time and generous sharing you brought to us this past year. May you and all your family find in this Christmas light, clarity, and peace. Merry Christmas, Tony!

  • Julie Trevino says:

    Great story ending the year of 2020. I have truly enjoyed every story shared this year. I have learned so much and look forward to more amazing stories in 2021.
    This beautiful story, I read today, made me think of my life and death. This year, with the pandemic, our ways of living has changed; it should have anyway. 2020 was the year to see clearer. To truly see God and get closer to Him. We are God’s servants, He has given us talents. Do we multiply these talents or do we waste them? God gives us everything we need and we will be held accountable. I pray that I have been able to see all the beauty in people and everything in this world that God has made. I pray that I have listened to others, especially when they needed my help. I pray that I have taken the time to smell our beautiful beaches, flowers, good food and everything that God has given me. I pray that every word that came out of my mouth were God’s words spoken through me. And I pray that I have touched others with patience, love and kindness; because in the end I will be judged with how I multiplied my God given talents.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    • Caro says:

      It has been wonderfully refreshing and comforting to read your responses to these pages over the year, Julie. First and foremost, thank you for that. As we move through the high mysteries of Christmas into the brave new world awaiting us, you remind us that God is already there waiting with His open arms and caring wisdom to assist us in every minute of every day. May the Lord grant you and all you love a sense of wonder and joy at Christmas propelling all of us toward a new beginning with fresh grace and hope to face the challenges that will find us prepared with the armor of God.

  • Ron says:

    What a profound look at the story of the five talents. I have failed to look deeper into the meaning of this parable and how things we already possess, like our natural senses, are the most valuable items given to us by God. When we use them as they were intended, we enhance the lives of those whose company we keep. A loving smile, a tender touch, or a sympathetic ear is often all we are looking for in an all-too-often cold and seemingly uncaring world. Being present, truly present, in the lives of others is a gift we all can give but, sadly, we’re too wrapped up with our own problems and fail to acknowledge the yearning heart of those around us who simply ask us for our time. “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love.” St. John of the Cross.

    • Caro says:

      As we near the great Festival of Christmas, we thank you, Ron, for the kind and generous time you spend with us to offer your insights, especially concerning our Nativity offering at this most wonderful time of the year. “A loving smile, a tender touch, or a sympathetic ear” are perhaps among the greatest gifts we can ever give and receive not only at this time but all year long. Thank you for reminding us that often times, if not at all times, the simplest gifts are the best. May we all be judged on love and found ready and able to enter into eternity when the time comes and where Christmas is forever.

  • Mari Rodríguez says:

    There is a need to share all our talents and not keep them to ourselves.
    This scripture is one I used with RCIA to have a project of multiplication of gifts and talents.
    Beautiful story and example of talents.

    • Caro says:

      Christmas greetings to you, Mari, with our thanks for taking the time not only to read our post but also to comment on them. You are so right about the amazing catechetical use we have in this particular Gospel, not only for instruction but also for life itself. Our prayers go out to you for a wonderful Christmas and the brightest of New Years in 2021.

  • Let us all pray we can use those God given talents to earn our “graduation”, as well. May our finished masterpieces inspire those left behind to employ their holy gifts to fulfill that which our Lord asks to achieve His holy will. What a lovely story of encouragement and accomplishment for this Christmas season, full of hope for the new year! Thank you!

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Margie, for gracing our blog with your comments which I have no doubt will resonate with our readers with the most sincere hope for a much better year in the next 12 months ahead. We all agree that the use of our talents towards our specific “graduation” will make for the most amazing backdrop not only for the Christmas Season but also for the brave new world in 2021. God bless you, Margie, and Merry, Holy Christmas!

  • Anonymous says:

    ….Ex trao dinary.. thanks for sharing and taking the time!!!

    Happy times!!!

    • Caro says:

      Smiles everywhere today as we not only near the great Mystery of Christmas in 2020 but also as you have found something of worth in these pages. Blessed days ahead and may you experience a spirited and spiritual renewal in 2021, a year we all hope, will be filled with “happy times.”

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