I woke from a restless sleep, unsure why my spine felt like someone had tied it in knots. Slowly, the fog of sleep cleared and my vision and mind focused. I shifted in the deflated chair that served as my bed and took in my surroundings. Tinsel and candy cane decor hung at intervals along the wall to my right. My mom sat in the chair across from me, absently holding an empty coffee cup in one hand and resting her head on the other. Her eyes were open, but she didn’t see me. Worry furrowed her brow as she stared blankly at the cold, hard floor beneath my feet. I heard the rhythmic whirring and beeping of the ventilator through the door on my left, and suddenly I remembered. I’m at the hospital.
It was December of 2012, and my dad was in the ICU after receiving a bone marrow transplant. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer that spring, and during the course of his treatment the doctors discovered that he had bone cancer, as well. After his transplant, they were hopeful that he would recover, but he had not regained consciousness yet. So my mom and I sat in the otherwise empty hallway, serenaded by a soundtrack of medical machinery and waiting for my dad to wake up.
My mom blinked and looked up at me. I asked the question with my eyes - Any news? She shook her head and stood. “I’m going to get another cup of coffee.” I watched her walk down the cheerfully decorated hallway, and I prayed. Emmanuel, God with Us, we need you now.
I looked to my left and was surprised to find a piece of paper folded up in our mailbox. Someone must have dropped it off while we were sleeping, because I didn’t remember it being there when we arrived. As I read the following letter, tears filled my eyes:
Not too long ago, I sat in this Emory ICU waiting room - waiting for news as my father underwent liver transplant surgery. On that cold, dark evening, I held my mother, and we prayed throughout the night for a miracle. Shivering the in dark, something happened here. I felt it. A peace and warmth covered us that can only be described as the presence of God in this place. An energy and resolve.
That night, I promised God that I would try to bring warmth to those in need, regardless of Dad’s outcome.
This past Thanksgiving marked my Dad’s 8th anniversary from having his transplant.
In your darkest hour, no matter what the outcome may be, know that God is with you and blesses you. I know what you are going through, and when I needed support it came, and so it has for you in some small way.
Love is with you this holiday season and always. You are not alone. God is with you!
I cry every time I read this letter, because I too know the warmth and peace that its author describes. As a child, I loved Christmas because I loved the colorful light displays, the joyful sound of Christmas carols, the promise of time with family, and the excitement of tearing open shiny wrapping paper and discovering the perfect gift underneath. While I still enjoy all of those things as an adult, the part that stirs me down to the innermost part of my soul is this - the arrival of Emmanuel. God with Us. The Christ. The Messiah. The One who made it possible for me to have a relationship with my Creator. The One who is able to heal my broken spirit. The One who moved a young woman’s heart to write this letter for me. The One who made it possible for me to be the only person in that hospital hallway and not feel alone. He was with me.
I know that there are many of you who are hurting this Christmas. Perhaps, like I was, you’re faced with the fear of losing someone you love. Maybe you’ve already lost someone, and you’re not sure how to celebrate without them. Whatever grieves your heart this Christmas, I want you to know that you are not alone. The God who brought warmth to the author of my letter and peace to me in that hospital hallway is willing and able to hold and heal the broken pieces of your heart. All you have to do is ask.
For those who are wondering, my dad did make it through this surgery and his next one. It's been two years since the surgery I mentioned above, and this Christmas we celebrate restored health for both of my parents. My heart is filled with more gratitude than I know how to express. Love, hug, and kiss on your loved ones this season, sweet friends. And if someone you know is hurting, put an arm around them to remind them they're not alone.