Note: The following message was sent to Luther Music Marketing on December 12, 2020 and is shared with the permission of the author.
My name is Monica and I’m a proud 2020 Luther grad. During my years in the music department, I was always so excited to be involved in Christmas at Luther ([email protected]). Despite the grueling rehearsal schedule, the confusion of tech week, and the occasional fear of fainting in the middle of a performance, [email protected] will forever hold a very special place in my heart, and my memories of it are precious and profound.
Commencement During the Pandemic
Being a member of the COVID Class of 2020, this past year has, without question, been difficult for me. I was lucky enough to have a family and a warm house to welcome me after we were sent home from campus in March. But that home is hundreds of miles away from Decorah, and it is also hundreds of miles away from my friends. Although my family briefly watched the virtual commencement ceremony in May, the internet connection for us was so poor that we ended up turning it off and going about our day as usual.
I began to feel distant from Luther and its community over the weeks following Commencement. It almost felt like I hadn’t spent the past 3.5 years of my life there, making lifelong friends, learning unforgettable lessons, creating beautiful music in the choirs, and becoming the person I am today. I suppose it had become too painful for me to remember Luther, and every time I gave it a moment’s thought, I would burst into tears. Despite earning my diploma, I was not the proud Luther graduate that I imagined I would be.
Starting My Career Abroad
Over the summer I made the decision to move to France for an English-teaching position. Because of this, I will be unable to be with my family for the holidays. Although I feel very lucky to be able to live and work abroad, it is, nevertheless, a very lonely existence. The town is very small, very few people speak English (and my spoken French is no better), and due to the quarantine restrictions, it is impossible to meet new people and to make any friends.
For the first time in my life, I had not been looking forward to the Christmas season, but rather dreading it, wishing for it to be over as soon as possible. I have never spent Christmas alone before, and I was feeling no joy, no excitement, and certainly no sense of community.
Virtual Christmas at Luther
I was unable to watch Christmas at Luther: For Everyone Born immediately upon its release, and although I had signed myself up to receive the streaming link, I felt no need or desire to take the time to watch it. It wasn’t until my mother asked me about it during a video chat the other night, wanting to know my thoughts on it that I admitted I hadn’t seen it, and she simply said that I should take time to watch it over the weekend.
I watched the video on my small phone screen, and my heart warmed upon seeing the faces of students and professors who I recognized, as well as seeing shots of the campus and the Center For Faith and Life hall. The sense of community that I had lost began to come back to me, and near the end of the video, when President Ward appeared on the screen holding a lit candle, I quite literally burst into tears. I’m not exaggerating, I truly began sobbing uncontrollably and I’m sure my next door neighbors could hear me.
For so many months, I thought I needed to numb myself to the absolute joy and unconditional love that the Luther community had welcomed into my life, that I needed to forget the unique feeling of belonging that I thought had been stolen from me in March. I had spent so much of my time wondering what my final semester at Luther could have been like had the pandemic never happened. I had become jealous of the graduating classes before me who got to experience the celebrations and the parties in the days leading up to their commencement. I had become so angry that I would never get the chance to have those experiences, to create those treasured memories, and to cherish my final few months on Luther’s campus.
Watching For Everyone Born reminded me that, although I did not get the final semester I wanted, I still got 3.5 years of being a member of the Luther community. I still have 3.5 years of memories filled with laughs, music making, and sleepless nights. I still have my dear friends who I made these memories with. And, of course, I still got to experience Christmas at Luther four times as a performer, and I will have a lifetime of shows to look forward to, whether I experience the show in person or not.
Music Touches the Soul
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this year’s Christmas at Luther production. It was a privilege and a gift that I could watch and listen to. Music has the power to do incredible things despite all odds, and the Luther College Music Department exceeded my expectations with this show, reminding me of joy, of memories, and of a community that I am very much still part of, despite being physically so far away from it. Thank you so much for giving me back the excitement of the Christmas season that had been absent before. Thank you for allowing me the experience of seeing [email protected] for the first time as an alumna. I could go on forever saying thank you.
If you receive this message, I hope I could ask you to please forward it to others who were involved in creating this unique and awesome experience. I hope you and all others know that the music and the community of Luther College is reaching and impacting people far beyond Decorah, beyond Iowa, and beyond the U.S.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Best wishes and Merry Christmas from France,
Monica Barron, ‘20
Assistante de Langue
L’Académie de Normandie
Editor’s Note: If you missed this year’s Christmas at Luther or want to watch it again, you can still stream the full length Christmas at Luther 2020: For Everyone Born performance [https://www.youtube.