My perspective on it all changed on Christmas Eve in 2001. Just a few months after the sadness of 9/11, I was ready to celebrate the joy of Christmas. That afternoon I headed out the door to spend the evening with my best friend Jeremy (now my husband). His entire family and I were at his uncle's house when their phone rang. A few minutes later Jeremy's Dad came downstairs.
"Your brother has been in a car accident." That's all he said, that's all he had to say. I knew it was bad. We rushed to the hospital.
I remember feeling my feet fall out of my clogs and someone was catching me when my Dad said that Matthew was in a coma. He quickly told me to pull it together for my Mom's sake. My 16 year old brother had just finished putting some Christmas lights on the house before hopping in his car wearing just shorts, a t-shirt, my Dad's coat and slippers that cold night. He was going to drive past the house to see how the lights looked from the road, but he never came back. We later learned that he had crashed his Pontiac into a telephone pole over a mile away.
|My brother and I ~ 2004|
My heart ached and the sorrow overwhelmed me when the doctors said that they didn't know if he would live to see Christmas. His head injury was that severe. Like no other time before or since, I cried out to God. "Please let him live! Please don't let him have any brain damage." I think the fear of having my little brother be mentally impaired was the hardest possibility to take in.
As I begged and pleaded with God for a miracle a humbling thought occurred to me. On Christmas so long ago, God was willing to send His son to earth from heaven to die a horrible death for our sins. But I was very unwilling to allow God to take my brother to the glories of heaven and leave behind the sorrows of this earth. The meaning of Christmas quickly changed for me that night. It wasn't about the pretty tree, the gifts or even spending time with family. All of those things are subject to change. I learned that Christmas that the only way "to survive the holidays" was to focus on God's Gift - his son Jesus.
Jeremy went back to my parents' house that evening to pick up some personal items for us all. "Get the ribbon under his pillow" I said. It was a ribbon we weren't supposed to know about. It was once a silky bow tied around his precious stuffed bear he called "Boo" as a boy. Matthew used to rub the softness between his fingers as he fell asleep.
While Jeremy was gone the Trauma Unit waiting room filled with most of our church congregation as the Prayer Chain calls went out. The crowd began to fill the hallway so the hospital staff finally opened up a large conference room for the many people that came to be us that Christmas Eve. I'm not normally a fan our crowds, but the fact that so many put their quiet evening aside to be in a hospital that night meant so much to us. My uncle flew up from Nashville, our former youth Pastor drove down from Selinsgrove and lots of family came up from Delaware - to pray, cry and possibly say "goodbye", it was that bad.
When the ribbon arrived we wound it around Matthew's wrist and left the ends loose so that he could touch it. Because sleep was rare during those prayer filled nights I don't remember what day it happened - but we all received a miracle that Christmas, wrapped in an old tattered bow. Matthew hadn't opened his eyes yet when I looked down at his side to see him rubbing the ribbon between his fingers. I still tear about when I picture it. It was then that I knew "he was still in there." He was going to live AND he was going to remember us all despite such a blow to the head.
My brother suffered from many headaches that winter. He didn't remember the accident or the Christmas days spent in the hospital. Life soon returned to normal as my brother made a full recovery!
Eleven years later I still say a prayer when I see an ambulance on Christmas Eve. May God Bless the many that put their celebrations aside in December for our emergencies.
Eleven years later my brother is alive and well - married with two adorable children. Christmas is difficult because I never get to celebrate it with him. Falling outs don't fade because of festivities (that's only in the movies). I still pray for a miracle at Christmas. I miss my brother so much.
If you've buried any sorrows throughout the year I can almost guarantee they'll come to the surface in December. I wish I could share some full proof way to survive the celebrations without missing the ones you love. But we are human and can never forget those connections from the past.
When Christmas gets difficult (and it always does), I think back to that moment in the hospital when God quietly told me what Christmas was like for Him. He sent His son to a wicked world when He could have kept Him all to Himself. Mary held her sweet baby knowing the fate that awaited Him.
|Photo Courtesy of Dianne Albright|
As I waited for my cue to enter the stage I thought of my brother, of Ruth and others that I won't see this Christmas. There are many reasons to be sad. But as I settled on my bale of hay with my infant son I remembered my only instructions for my brief part in the concert - look down lovingly at your baby. Focusing on the baby is what we all need to do this Christmas. No matter how bad your year has been, and I know 2012 has been a tough one for many of you, meditating on God's indescribable gift will put your trials into perspective.
God is still in the business of performing miracles at Christmas. Today a 3lb. baby is breathing on her own in the NICU at Women's & Babies Hospital. She was never supposed to be born. Just two months ago doctors gave her no chance of living, but here she is. This past week a little boy with cancer is rebounding under Hospice Care. Have you ever heard of someone improving under Hospice Care? Me neither. We serve a mighty God! Keep praying for your miracle this Christmas and I'll keep praying for mine - my little brother.