I go out on Christmas Eve and play music at my mom's grave. Nothing fancy; I use an old cassette player from the '80s — one, in fact, that I used to record her describing her younger days.

It is very quiet and peaceful. I play a clarinet solo of "O Holy Night," and the notes go up to the sky and then float down to settle on all the graves. Mom is buried with her parents, great uncles and great grandparents who immigrated from Canada. I often imagine people nudging each other from grave site to grave site, saying, "Listen, do you hear that? Someone came out to play Christmas music for us ... " When the wind is blowing hard, I huddle behind a tall headstone.

Maybe this is a tradition others would like to start. Surely, in this time of division, we can all agree on peace and music — mine, I share in a simple prairie cemetery.

Sheila M. O'Brien, Barry, Minn.


If able, give your check away

With Congress just having approved additional stimulus checks for many Americans ("Congress delivers $900B stimulus," front page, Dec. 22), I am pledging to donate the amount that our family receives. For many families, the amount they receive will not be nearly enough to make up for the income they have lost. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to retain our jobs and income throughout this year, I believe we have the responsibility to quickly redirect these funds back into the community for those who need it more.

While we all have something we could spend the money on to benefit ourselves, let's use this opportunity to help alleviate suffering instead.

Whether it's a member of your family or a friend or neighbor, give the money to someone who truly needs it. Many nonprofits are struggling too, so find an organization that is directly supporting those in need and help them to fulfill their mission.

During a year in which the burdens and impacts of this pandemic have been so unevenly distributed, those of us with the means to do so must do what we can to help others. Our neighbors and nonprofits need our support now more than ever, so I urge my fellow readers to consider how they might be able to do the most good.

Daniel Tikk, St. Paul
• • •

I'm overwhelmed to soon be receiving my $600 COVID relief check! Wow. It's exciting to be an American and have the opportunity to spend it on:

• $509 for one month of health insurance

• $49 for one month of dental insurance

• $42 for savings so if I become so ill or injured that I simply must see a physician, causing me to spend down my $6,900 deductible, I'll have a wad of cash to start that fund!

Thanks, Congress!

Marti Priest, Hopkins


Science is clear on this, though

In the Dec. 21 Star Tribune, a commentary from Ross Douthat at the New York Times attempts to discredit liberals for their default response to just "follow the science" regarding the coronavirus (" 'Follow the science' is no answer to choices we face"). He then takes almost a half page to debunk everything related to the development and distribution of the COVID vaccine.

As a former health professional, when I think about "follow the science" related to any infectious disease, I think of the science behind the four cornerstones of minimizing the spread of any infection. They are: Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, socially distance and minimize going out in public. These four actions are well founded in science and are not political. That aspect of science applies here and should be the basis of all our actions.

RICHARD JANSEN, Cumberland, Wis.


The night before a very odd holiday

'Twas the night before Christmas and spread out all

Through the house,

No masked family members were stirring,

Not even a mouse.

The stockings were sanitized by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas be allowed to come there.

The children nestled all snug in their beds,

They had dreams of travel and parties dancing in their heads.

And Mama in her mask and I with my COVID protective cap,

Had just settled in for a long, long, long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window — with anti-bacterial spray in hand — I flew like a flash,

Decontaminated the shutters and sprayed some on the sash.

The moon on the ground of the green and brown lawn,

Highlighted shadows that kind of looked like fawns,

When what to my shield-covered, wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh with eight masked reindeer.

With a little old driver, so old and so thick,

I hoped that it wasn't a COVID St. Nick.

More rapid than media rumors his coursers they came,

He croaked and he mumbled as he whispered their names:

"Now Covid! Now Corona! Now Fauci and Cuomo!

On Quarantine! On Pfizer! On Astra-Zeneca and Moderna!

To the people get ye — get ye to one and to all!

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,

The prancing and pawing of each protective bootied hoof.

As I drew in my ever-sanitized hands, I turned around and,

Down came St. Nick with a bound.

He was dressed all in Kevlar and fur, from his head to his foot,

And his protective robe was all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of medicine he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a mailman opening his pack.

His eyes how they twinkled! However, the rest of his face

Was covered by a red and white mask,

But it didn't stop him from getting right to his task.

He had a happy but serious face and a little round COVID belly,

That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of sanitizer jelly.

He was chubby and plump for a right jolly old nisse

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know that I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Filling the stockings with Kvikk Lunsj, vials of vaccine and hope,

He turned with a jerk, and laying his surgical glove finger to the side of his nose,

Gave a nod and up the chimney he rose,

He sprang to his sleigh and, to his team he gave a mask-muffled call

And away they all flew, like blowing leaves in the fall.

"Now Covid! Now Corona! Now Fauci and Cuomo!

On Quarantine! On Pfizer! On Astra-Zeneca and Moderna!

To the people get ye! Get ye to one and all!"

And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight;

"There is hope for all! And hope comes tonight! Merry Christmas to all and to all a peaceful night!"

... And, a much better 2021!

(P.S. A nisse is a Norwegian elf, and Kvikk Lunsj is a Norwegian Kit Kat-like candy bar.)

John Sorteberg, St. Louis Park

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