Oh Holy Night!
One lonely soldier’s promise changed Christmas Eve
in Denver for 40 years!
For over 30 years, my father directed a tiny little choir
of professional singers who only sang together one night
a year. It consisted of eight local Denver soloists who
walked up and down the halls of hospitals on Christmas
Eve and sang Christmas carols to the patients who were
too sick to go home for the holidays.
The tradition was started by a man named Frank
Farmer, Frank had been one of the lost and frightened
soldiers recovering in a military hospital at the end of World
War II. The story goes, he was just about ready to give
up one Christmas Eve, until a small group of volunteers
began caroling through the halls and Frank heard the old
familiar carols of his childhood for the first time in a long
long while. That night Frank promised God that if he ever
got out of the hospital, he would start his own little choir of
carolers and return to others the blessing of hope that he
was given that Christmas.
How often have we found ourselves in trouble, in a
jam, or in pain, and promised God that if he would only
do this or that, we would give him something in return?
Well, first of all, I don’t believe God makes deals with us.
God is a God of mercy not a God of bargains. I don’t think
there is anything that we could trade with him to receive
his grace. That trade has already been made for us by
Not to mention, I think God knows us well enough to
understand that most of the times even when we make
bargains like that, once the storm has passed, very few of
us remember to keep that side of the bargain.
Nevertheless, Frank Farmer was one man who never
forgot his commitment to pass on the gift that he was
given. He returned to Denver and founded the Frank
Farmer Octet, and for almost 40 years, the halls of
Denver hospitals were filled with the sounds of caroling
on Christmas Eve. My father became the director of that
little group when I was a little girl, my mother and sisters
later sang in that choir and it was my dream to sing in it
too one day! And the night I became a member of the
Frank Farmer Octet was the Christmas Eve I will never
forget. It was the Christmas Eve I had always dreamed of,
but never ever could have imagined.
I was 16 when I was finally allowed to spend Christmas
Eve the way I wanted to, just with my parents! Every
Christmas Eve I stayed home with a babysitter while
my parents spent it doing something that I will always
be proud of, they were part of the Frank Farmer Octet
in which all members gave up their Christmas each year
to caroling the halls
of all the Denver
don’t like to keep
people there over the
holidays, and only the
very sick are there
on Christmas Eve.
Year after year, my
parents were part of a
beautiful and beloved
Denver tradition that brought comfort to hundreds of the
sick and dying and their families. I begged my parents to
let me become one of those singers and finally at 16 they
allowed me to become an alto in the group. so long before
joining them. This was not a Christmas party; it was a
Christmas mission, and you never knew from year to year
how it would end.
That year we put on our choir robes, turned on the
flickering electric votive candles and followed my father
up one hall and down the other. We drove in the snow
across the town from one hospital to the next until we
found ourselves at the last one, which the snow almost
prevented us from reaching.
As we walked down the second floor, a nurse ran out
to us from the ICU and called us in. She gathered us
around the bed of a man who was obviously in his last
hours. His wife leaned over and whispered something to
him, and with a great effort, he gave her a slight nod. “Do
you know Oh! Holy Night? It is his favorite” she said. My
father turned to my mother and gave her a look that said,
“Can you do this”? She nodded, and she began to sing in
her beautiful clear soprano with the rest of us humming
I will always remember how the tempo she picked was
somehow in time with the hollowed beats of the heart
machine. BEEP, BEEP, ♫ Oh Holy Night, ♫ The Stars Are
Brightly Shining ♫ BEEP, BEEP… the longer she sang the
more the tears ran down the man’s face and the harder
his wife squeezed his hands as one after another of us
just couldn’t sing anymore. But, mother, kept on singing ♫
Fall On Your Knees ♫ BEEP, BEEP ♫ Oh Hear the Angel’s
Voices ♫ BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. And he gasped… And
he was gone. And through her tears his wife smiled at my
mother and my mother nodded at her and kept singing ♫
Oh Night Divine ♫ Oh Night ♫ Oh Holy Night ♫ and it was
a holy, holy night. May the miracle of God’s love and his
free gift of eternal life and peace be yours this year and
always. Merry Merry Christmas!
Source: Martha Williamson, atouchofencouragement.com,