Just now joining me? Read Part One of this story here.
Christmas Day dawned… and there was a tiny candy cane on my breakfast tray. It was tied with a strand of red and green curling ribbon.
And we began another long day of sickness and no answers.
On Christmas night the vein that my IV was in developed an infection and collapsed. Nurses tried in vain (or maybe it was ‘in vein?’) to get it back in. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that I had had so many IVs in the past two months. My arms, wrists, and hands were so scarred (and still are today) that it was hard to find a place in which to insert a new IV.
Finally…success. “Ah, that is a beautiful vein” the nurse said. (I think that was supposed to be comforting)
I struggled to manage the pain without getting sick, so a porter named Peter (he must have been an angel because God brought him across our path so many times in that hospital during different stays!) came in and held my hand while they put the IV in. He told me to squeeze the life out of his hand if I needed to. I think I did.
And then the tears came. And came. And came. Floods of grief over what was happening to me- to our little family- to my Christmas dreams.
They were shattered. I was stuck in the hospital and no one knew for how long. I was maxed out on doses of several nausea medications and yet I was still sick. The doctors were running out of answers to help me recover and stay that way. Aside from the physical part, the loneliness we felt was overwhelming that it felt almost physically heavy on our hearts.
We had God and each other, a baby whose life stayed on the edge of vitality day by day, and a tiny candy cane. That was Christmas the year 2005~ our first Christmas together as a married couple.
We were rich
A few days after Christmas, I was transferred by ambulance to the IWK (Childrens/Maternity Hospital) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was there that we spent our first New Year’s together. (That’s a story for another day.)
When we finally arrived home, I had been in two hospitals for three weeks. It felt like three years.
Upon opening our front door and stepping inside, we found our Christmas tree browned over. Completely dead.
I touched the tree with one finger. In the silence of our cold and neglected living room, a shower of needles hit the gifts underneath and then scattered on the hardwood floor.
So symbolic. So heart wrenching. Yet so reassuring….so hopeful. I had survived, once again, what doctors said I may not survive. I was home, at least for that day.
Christmas wasn’t a place. It wasn’t a tradition. It wasn’t even the dream of what I wanted it to be.
It was our hearts. It was Christ. It was God’s will, which was bigger than my dreams of the perfect Christmas.
Experiencing Christmas in the hospital changed me forever. I am so thankful for that trial. Now every December I remember with empathy those who are in the hospital. It’s been a lasting lesson in compassion and in what Christmas truly is.
Are you facing a trial that threatens to take your Christmas joy? It doesn’t have to. You, like Mary, can ponder and keep things in your heart.
Keep Christmas in your heart. Guard it with your very life.
Then go share it with someone else.