Our son, born with severe disabilities, was medically fragile and spent most of his first year of life in the hospital. He was home just before his second Christmas, and we reveled in decorating the house and the tree for him.
And then he suddenly got sick with a respiratory virus that put his fragile life in peril. He was placed in isolation at the hospital. Nurses, doctors, visitors, and even parents had to scrub and gown up before entering his room. He was on an expensive experimental medication that was delivered in a tent over his head. Female visitors of childbearing age (including myself) had to prove they weren’t pregnant before entering his room because of the medication in the air. We were allowed to pick him up only to feed him so as not to waste that time he got getting the medication. Our hearts were breaking as we had such difficulty comforting him when he cried.
To say that we were discouraged and worried is an understatement. We had never felt such despair, so alone and, well, isolated.
Christmas Eve I dashed home to gather our gifts and other supplies we needed. Carrying way too much in my arms, I crossed the street from the parking garage to get to the hospital. I was sobbing uncontrollably, crying out to God for strength and comfort and healing. People walked by and understandably avoided making eye contact – no “Merry Christmases” or offers of help carrying packages or even one bit of hope for me to hold on to. To make matters worse, I started dropping packages in the middle of the crosswalk. Still no help. The light changed, cars honked. Scrambling through my tears to gather everything in the fading light, I headed up to my son’s room, feeling at the lowest I’d probably ever felt in my life with emotions I couldn’t even describe.
Gowning up, I looked through the windows into his room and saw a beautiful sight, making me cry even more, only this time in gratitude. An elderly couple from church, Bob and Hertha, were setting up a card table with a table cloth and candle. They brought an entire homemade Christmas meal to share with us, but more importantly, they brought us hope in our despair, pointing us to Christ through conversation laced with scripture and prayer.
Our Christmas Day was filled with unexpected visits from our church family, as if they’d gotten together to time it all out, but it was scheduled solely by God’s hand, making sure the visits were spread throughout the day. We laughed, sang, ate, played games, and prayed with these sweet saints all day long. What had started as the worst Christmas ever turned into one of our fondest Christmas memories, one in which we now delight to see how God takes care of us in our darkest hours.
“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13:35 (NIV)