Around the corner from my house, our local hospital stands a mere 5 stories high. I can see the giant blue "H" on top of the building while standing in my back yard. I can hear the life flight helicopters whisking over my roof, and the sirens sailing down the street every single day. There is no opportunity to forget that the hospital sits right around the corner, the noise of the hustle and bustle reminding me always to pray.
Right now, in that hospital, my mother lies in a bed too weak to get up, too tired for much conversation, too sick to eat, too young for the prognosis she faces. She awaits her second surgery in a week's time. She's in pain. She's quiet. She's sleeping more than anything.
And it's Christmastime. As I wait to see how long she will remain in the hospital, I wonder how we will make this Christmas, the one that the doctor's say will be her last, as special as she always made it for us.
When I was a child, Christmas was always a special time in our house. Even in lean years, my parents somehow filled the space beneath the Christmas tree with gifts. Mom loved decorating the house with us. We went to the Holeski Christmas tree farm and chose a tree to cut and drag home where Dad put it in the stand and then helped get the decorations from storage. He left the decorating to Mom, my sister, and me.
Alabama Christmas would play in the cassette player. Mom would expertly place the lights and garland on the tree while candles burned in the Home Interiors sconce on the wall, filling the air with the scent of pine and cinnamon. One of us would set up the ceramic nativity set. Ornaments and silver tinsel covered the tree. The little brown gingerbread ornaments complete with my toddler teeth marks, the shiny 1970s bulbs passed to my parents from my grandparents, the sewn snowman ornaments purchased at a local craft bazaar, the pretty glazed ceramic angel given to my mother by my 2nd grade teacher. A flashing, rainbow colored star donned the top of the tree.
Once the tree and decorations were adorning our home, Mom watched Charlie Brown and Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman with us. She baked sweet treats with us. Sugar cookie cut-outs, Russian teacakes, and peanut butter cookies with Hershey's kisses in the center. She made us homemade hot cocoa during Christmas break.
Mom didn't even realize she was doing anything to make Christmas special, but she did. Now I face the task of how to make this Christmas special for her. I hope that she gets to go home soon, but I don't know if that will happen. I hope that she is...
For one last Christmas.
And while I hope, I have to decide. How do we make this Christmas special? How do we hold on a little tighter and let her go all at the same time? Do we decorate her house hoping that she gets to spend her Christmas there? Do we deliver decorations to her hospital room? What do you give to the person who has everything she wants? How do we hold onto Christmas joy in the midst of such intense sorrow?
I know this isn't the kind of post that is going to have you clicking your mouse to get back to read more, but that's not why I'm posting it. I'm writing this post for two reasons. Therapy. It comes in many forms, and, for me, it often comes through the written word. I'm writing this for myself.
I also write to ask you to pray, not just for my mother and my family, though we certainly need to be uplifted, but for the many, many families who face similar predicaments this Christmas. I look back at the year my mom lost both her parents and wonder how the selfish, 19 year old girl that I was didn't see how much my mother needed support that Christmas. Did I pray for her? For my aunts and uncles?
I don't even remember.
I implore you, be that support for someone this year. Send them a card. Tell them you're praying for them. Drop a small gift on their doorstep. Hug them in the grocery story. Take their kids somewhere for an afternoon and free them up to be with their loved one. Take 5 minutes, 2 minutes even, to show someone who is hurting that you care about them this Christmas season. I promise you that they will never forget your kindness even if they are too overwhelmed to tell you how much it means to them right now. It means a lot. I know this for certain. Whether they have lost someone already and face the empty chair at the Christmas dinner table, or they are told that they will be losing someone soon, they need you. Your prayers going up on their behalf will get them through each day, each hour, each moment when they think they can't put one foot in front of the other, when they leave the hospital and find that, as they slowly shuffle across a dark parking lot, every muscle in their body aches from exhaustion and stress and they wonder if they will collapse before their hand reaches the handle on their car door.
So I ask you to pray for us. Pray for people like us.
And remember your Christmas blessings, past and present. What a blessing it is to look back on my childhood Christmases and to see my mother sitting on the couch as we opened the gifts she perfectly chose for us because she always knows exactly what gift to give. What a blessing it is to remember the red skirt she sewed for me when I was in junior high school so that I had a beautiful outfit to wear to church on Christmas. What a blessing to remember how she has continued this Christmas legacy by showering her grandchildren with the same kind of attention to detail, right down to choosing Spiderman, Dora, and princess gift wrap according to each child's taste.
Mom would tell you that she isn't anyone special, but I tell you that she is. She is amazing. She is one of the most thoughtful people you'll ever meet, and this Christmas? More than anything, I want to bless her as much as she has blessed me. This Christmas, my mother is my greatest Christmas blessing.