The sun is a red glowing ember fast burning in the fire of the sky when I leave my valley home and head back to the hospital that final night. I pull up to the mouth of our neighborhood and I need to go east to get back to my sick boy but that star on fire in the west is calling me to her hearth. So I turn left instead of right and I drive to a place where I can sit by her fire for a spell—lift hands to her glow. I land in a parking lot on the top of a hill and I watch her warmth spill the hills with amber and the red in the sky bleeds down with her descent until there is only white and I feel the chill of her absence.
There is that tender ache that the beauty always leaves and I know it is the call home, but still…I marvel at how this emptiness fills. The birds are lined up on wires above me and I am not blind to the way the pole dissects their sitting—reminding me how the gift is always accompanied by the sacrifice.
I can’t stop thinking about Christmas. Not the baby-Jesus-in-a-manger kind of Christmas with all the stable animals gawking but the way-the gifts-of God-come small kind of Christmas—like in a babe or a deep breath of fresh air or time spent well together. It’s a Christmas everyday kind of thing.
And I don’t know why I’ve never seen it before—why it took this place of vulnerability and fear to open my eyes—except that when we were in the ER, I kept thinking about this story and imagining how the poison must be spreading slow through his body and God kept bringing this song to mind. So I sang it to him, over and over and when the lyrics ran out and his pain reached crescendo I just held on to him tight, pressed my lips against his forehead and said, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Right then his heart recognized the name of the healer and with a small and pain-soaked voice he sang to me. And I knew that great duality—the one the saints talk about—how a heart can feel fear and pain and sorrow and yet…still be at peace.
So I dig out this album and all week long as I drive to and fro in our little valley–as I travel from sick boy to sick boy–I listen. And when Teddy gets in my van to go to the wound center, he picks up the cd and gives me a look.
“Your listening to Christmas music, mom? Mom, it’s July.“
I just smile.
Quiet. Soft. Slow.
This is how my Christmas gifts came this week.
The way he closed his eyes when I rubbed his legs and how he called those nasty TED hose his lederhosen.The ways brothers talk when they miss each other and the way Jeff stopped at the hospital each morning to bring me good coffee. The way his kisses seemed sweeter every time he had to leave us. The way a nurse can bless when she wears compassion and how the kindness of a physician brings me to my knees with gratitude. A quiet chapel with a kneeling bench. A bed—soft and roomy. And the wet kisses of a four-legged flurry…
How have I been so blind? I’ve been looking for Christmas in the shiny bright package, all tied up with a red bow. I’ve missed the tender gifts of the quiet every day.
Oh, hallelujah, we are home and all is well but praise God. Oh, praise God for the sacrifice that opens the eyes to the sweet gifts bestowed in the ordinary times.
I’m still unwrapping.
With Cheryl today: