I knew it would be, but I didn’t think it would be so hard. I think it started when thoughts became reality: this would be the first Christmas in which I would hear no music. Earlier this summer when I gave my cd’s away, the facts were there, but not the season. I am glad I gave when I did…but now it is starting to settle in–Christmas in Silence. Oh, believe me, I sing in my head like a 24 hour radio station, but it’s not quite the same.
There is still joy in the start of December. I am just navigating my way around some “lumps of coal:” some ‘differences’ between Christmas present and Christmas pasts.
Eleven years ago, my Christmas season was not so ordinary either. Between my diagnosis on November 18, 2002 to my first major surgery December 18, 2002–I had missed most of school but still completed my assignments, sat for hours in waiting rooms and bright-colored hospital rooms at Denver Children’s in which I met a whole team of doctors that talked to me about everything that I did not even grasp or understand and still tried to do fun seasonal traditions with my youth group and family.
Then I had my surgery. I think my biggest worry was thinking I would not make it home in time for Christmas. Like I said, I did not (at that point) fathom the seriousness of the surgery and its possible effects nor even living the rest of my life with this disease. I cried more about missing school than fearful emotions (nerd, I know.) The day of the surgery, my pastor and his wife joined my parents and myself in the waiting area. They had brought some gifts from their boys and the youth group. One was a stuffed chicken that played music and danced, “The Chicken Dance” song. For some strange reason this was huge for us back then.
At first, it was just us in the room. Then a couple and a with a small boy, maybe aged 4, joined us. Making casual conversation, they told us that the boy’s name was Gabriel. That is all I know, but I can still see his face when we showed him the dancing chicken. It was silent joy of the season. I saw him a few days later when my sister and I went downstairs to do the craft of the day. Gabriel’s dad was pulling him in a red wagon; my sister was pushing me in a wheelchair.
The craft was a folded photo book. They had loads of Christmas stickers and markers. I just used stickers. I still have the little booklet; It holds five of my favorite pictures from that hospital experience. And I was discharged on Christmas Eve.
Present day–my handwriting is down to minimal use. My few Thanksgiving cards were simple (I liked it that way.) I knew my Christmas cards would have to be too. Wanting a different but fun greeting card to accompany my picture and “<3 Mel” signature, I decided on stickers. I got twelve cards done and noted how it was like a OT exercise to my fingers. I cried because on a card I messed up my signature and smiley face so bad I was going to throw it away. Mom and Dad said I should still send it. It is not about my signature, smiley face or stickers–it is about bringing joy to my family and friends this season. I need to focus my own joy on that aspect as I finish my cards this week.
It’s only December 1st. I don’t think gratitude should be limited to the month of November. I have much to be thankful for even in the different physical circumstances. Not all is different: Already this upcoming weekend, I have fun holiday events that I plan to attend with my family. Christmas movies have captions and I realized that I can still enjoy the Nutcracker ballet even if I don’t hear the music. Ballet is beautiful. Tis the season for a good cup of peppermint mocha, gingerbread cookies and peanut brittle; carolers, classic Christmas novels by the fireplace, and trees decorated with lights and special ornaments; snow, parties with friends or family, and the times of solitude.
It is the season of giving, the most wonderful time of the year, the joy that is ours in remembering the greatest gift of all:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 ESV