I have this life-long friend. She’s been in my closest circle of cherished ones from way back when.
We played Barbies and a myriad of other pretend games together as children; lounged by her folks’ swimming pool and dreamed of our weddings as teenagers; were actually in each other’s weddings as young adults, and laughed and cried together as we have matured into older adults.
If I could give her the best gift ever this Christmas, I would give her a do-over of this stressful year she’s experienced all wrapped up in gold, glittering paper and tied with an enormous red fluffy bow. Because as crazy as my year has been, hers has been a doozy.
Not only has she endured surgery, chemo, and radiation in her battle against that dreaded disease – cancer – this year, she also lost her father just a few weeks ago. Her husband is still recovering himself from some orthopedic surgery. Her grown children live hours away from her. And now, she’s hospitalized in excruciating pain from a complication that she never saw coming.
Sometimes this life on earth is just… Too. Much. And I cry for my friend because I do understand. Often we face the proverbial straw that breaks that camel’s back, the one that breaks our will, breaks our hearts, breaks just about everything in us. And we truly have to fight the hardest battle ever just to overcome our brokenness.
And on top of everything else, it’s Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho. The most wonderful time of the year. Joy to the world.
Christmas, when there is so much to do in preparation. Cards to send. Gift shopping and wrapping to be done. Decorating. Baking. The list goes on….and on….and on.
And accomplishing those things are just a few of the holiday preparations that my friend truly enjoys. Christmas makes her happy. But not this year.
This year, she lies in a hospital, a good hour and a half away from her home, in pain and fretting over all the things she hasn’t been able to do. And yes, by her own words, having herself “a pity party.”
As her lifelong friend, I wish I could make it all better for her. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her pain disappear but even the doctors can’t do that – they’ve cautioned her that recovery will take time.
I wish I could sprinkle magic fairy dust over her home, quite a distance from mine, and all her decorating and holiday preparations would be complete.
I wish I could say some magic words that would conjure up a Christmas elf to buy and wrap all the gifts she wants to give her family.
But I cannot. I am only human. I have no magic powers or instruments. I can’t even visit her in the hospital because the flu has infiltrated my home and I don’t want to be the bearer of bad viruses and compromise her already delicate immune system, so I must visit with her via cell phone.
So I do the only thing I can do. I listen. I let her vent her frustrations, her sadness, her disappointment, and yes, even her anger at this latest attack on her health. I tell her through my own tears that I’m sorry, that I hate that she has to go through this time.
I tell her not to fret, not to worry about what doesn’t get accomplished in time for Christmas. I encourage her to just concentrate on getting well and being able to go home soon.
But I don’t tell her the words she doesn’t want to hear, even though they are right there on the tip of my tongue.
“Don’t tell me things will get better,” she says. “I don’t want to hear that.”
So I close my mouth and swallow down those words, those words of platitude that we so often use, when honestly, we don’t really know what else to say.
And then I do the only other thing that comes to my mind, to my heart, to my soul. I ask her if I can pray with her right here, right now on this wireless device that connects us audibly even though our hearts are and always will be connected by friendship and love.
And she says yes.
And I hope and I pray that for just those few moments of prayer, Christmas – the one without all the preparation and fuss – flourished in her heart as it did mine.
“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans