Tuesday, November 21st -
(Okay, seriously it is Wednesday, November 22nd . . . barely . . . )
"He's not real, sis. Really! He's not!"
"Shut up! Yes he is! Mom and Dad swears he is!"
"Whatever, stupid baby. Believe what you want. Maybe Santa will come back this morning to change your diaper!"
"I DON'T WEAR DIAPERS! MOM! DAD!"
"Shhhhhhh! Be quiet! Whaddaya want? You want mom and dad to hear you and come up here or something?"
"Take it back!"
"I said take it back! Do it, or I'll scream again!"
"Okay, okay! You don't wear diapers."
"WAIT! Shhhhh! Keep it down, sis! Are you trying to get us in trouble before we get to go down to open presents?"
"No, TAKE - IT - BACK!"
"What? C'mon! I said you didn't wear diapers!"
"No. Take it back about Santa."
"Santa!! You said that Santa wasn't real! take - iT - BACK!"
"Alright, already, sis! Enough! He's real! Santa is real, and he probably brought us some cool stuff last night. Happy, now?"
"Santa IS real, and he is going to make this the best Christmas EVER! Santa will NOT let us down! He promised, and Santa doesn't break promises!"
"Okay, sis. You're right. It's gonna be great; I'm sorry, okay? Just keep quiet!"
As it turned out, materialistically, it WAS the best Christmas those two kids had experienced to date! Practically everything they had asked Santa for had been presented to them beneath the Christmas tree that morning. Christmas breakfast was divine, and that afternoon at grandma's, a Christmas dinner was served that could never be equaled!
After a long Christmas day filled with excitment, playing, eating, and playing some more, those two kids who began the day arguing about the reality of Santa, were driven home by their exhausted parents. Upon arriving home, they were sent upstairs to get ready for bed - a familiar Christmas day's end routine - resisted, and yet oddly relieving. After all, they too were exhausted, and they would need their energy the next day to play with all their new toys! Resistance and arguements concerning bedtime really would be merely symmantics this night!
The brother and sister changed into theri pj's and brushed their teeth. They both went to their rooms, turned down their beds, and waited for their parents to come upstairs to give them the all familiar, anti-climatic, "this year's Christmas is over" night's tuck-in. Excitement still surged through their veins, their minds were still preoccupied with the Christmas day's haul, their hearts were a little heavy that Christmas had come, was slipping away, and would not come again for another year. Sleep would not come easy, but (unbeknowst to them), would overtake them more swiftly than it had the night before! They both waited for mom and dad. Several minutes passed. Their parents must have been taking care of some last minute business downstairs. Maybe putting away leftovers from grandama's house? Still the kids waited. No mom and dad. Odd. They always tucked their kids in at night. What was wrong?
And then it happened.
Dad called upstairs for the kids. He asked them to come downstairs for a minute. Brother and sister, elated that bedtime had been delayed, scurried downstairs as fast as they could. Perhaps they had found another gift that Santa had cleverly hidden behind a couch in the living room! Upon arriving downstairs, the kids found their parents sitting somberly in the living room. The serious looks that overwhelmed the countenances of their parent's faces trumped the children's excited looks of anticipation. As instructed, the children sat down at their parent's feet. Both brother and sister were baffled. Suddenly, they realized that their mother had been crying. After this revelation, they immediately realized that their father had that "concerned" look on his face. At that very moment, the happy turned worried children gave their undivided attention to their father.
With a deep breath, a quick glance at his wife whose bowed head prevented her from seeing his gesture, and a long sigh, the father spoke to his children . . . .
Mom had breast cancer and would be going into the hospital the following morning.
Years later, as I sit up (waaaaaaay too late) typing this blog, I am reflecting on several things about that surreal Christmas day in Jackson, MS. #1: my sister's insistence and blind faith that an unseen and intangible being in whom she had total faith was real. #2: my parent's resolve to give their kids a wonderful Christmas despite the frightening reality of what lay ahead of them the very next day. #3: my father's stoicism and determination to maintain control despite the obvious fear that was permeating his very being. And most obviously (to me at the time), #4: my mother's ability to remain hopeful, calm, and reassuring to her family in the face of her fear, uncertainty, anger, and desperation.
History, they say, repeats itself. They also say that time can change one's perspective. 25 years later, I can confirm "their"assumptions. I can also say that we all can draw from Tom and Margaret's history as we grasp for straws of hope in light of their current situation. Just as sure as my sister proclaimed Santa's authenticity, we all must believe that God is real. However, there are definite times that we struggle with doubt concerning that Biblical certainty. Despite our doubts, though, God remains. God is.
And because Tom and Margaret hold fast to God's certainty, they continue to live their lives as witnesses to his reality, love, and mercy. In doing so, they give the rest of us hope as we all try to digest the reality of their current situation.
Tom's stoicism (or stubborness :-) ) remains strong. Why? Because he continues to embrace the role of the spiritual leader in his house that he did when he married Margaret years ago. Yes, unfortunately, his cognitive impairment increases with each passing day, but he still faithfully clings to his God given role as husband and father.
And finally, Margaret's hope. The hope that enabled her to give her children a Christmas on the eve of her breast cancer operation. The hope that enabled her to survive that cancer to raise a family and send them out into the world. The hope that enabled her to accept God's call into ordained ministry. The hope that led her to the west coast in answering God's next call into ministry. The hope that guided her through her next bought with cancer. The hope that gives her strength to care for her ailing husband. The hope that gives her the courage to fight through cancer a cruel and third time. The hope that has empowered her to uproot her fragile life at the age of 66 to move back across the country to a new and strange place. The hope that comes only from her Lord and Savior, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Reflections can sometimes be hard. They can also be . . . . hopeful.
The movers packed their house today, by the way. Everything is on schedule.
good night, all.