Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas blessings are in giving

Published December 15, 2005

Advent is the time in our family when we prepare for Christmas by doing simple things. We clean the house, decorate the house for the holidays, bake and give gifts. Some gifts are not returnable…some are only received in the giving.
This advent we are waiting not only for the Feast of Christmas, but we are waiting for Pop Pop (my dad), to come home from the hospital. He’s been seriously ill over the last two months following surgery on his aorta and the subsequent complications from the procedure.
Pop Pop’s room at the rehabilitation hospital is lined with get well wishes from friends, a small altar and a poster from the grandkids that they made when he was in the intensive care unit. Every day we monitor his progress toward recovery. As we wait for signs of hope, we try to cheer him and those around him as it gets closer to Christmas.
Last week, we received unexpected good news. Specifically, his kidneys have fully recovered. This was a Christmas miracle, as we had been told that the renal failure he suffered was permanent and that Pop Pop would be on dialysis every other day for the rest of his life. So many people had prayed for him, we are left speechlessly thankful. As we enter the last two weeks before Christmas, we are eagerly anticipating bringing him home for Christmas Day. He still is unable to walk, but we are hopeful that with all of us there to assist him, he will be able to relax and enjoy the day with all the family.
When someone you loves is hurting, there are times of extreme stress and anxiety. It’s the prayers and well wishes of friends that has lifted us up and sustained us. Like footprints in the sand, these consolations and graces that have come from others are what carried us in the storm of this part of our lives, and we are hardly aware of it.

These are gifts that cannot be returned and they are priceless. Even strangers are blessings to us, as they wish you well when they pass us in the halls of the hospital. Some of the most beautiful conversations I’ve had over the last two months have been with people I hardly know.

This Christmas, be assured of my thanks to all the Mountain Democrat readers who wrote me to tell me your own stories and to wish me well as we help my father recover and come home to us. There are many people in the hospitals around our area that need our prayers and support. It means a lot when visitors stop by convalescent and retirement homes, or go by the hospital to see patients who don’ have regular visitors. Whether you make get well cards, sing carols, or bring a small pet into these "halls of respite" to cheer the elderly and the sick, the most important gift you bring is the gift of your time and yourself. Hospitals appreciate visitors who donate books, games, toys, movies and CD’s. You’ll want to contact your local hospital auxiliary or Child Life Coordinator to see how you can help.

On St. Nicholas Day, December 6, my son, Conor, delivered a flower to every patient in his Pop Pop’s hospital to let them know he was thinking of them and praying for them. Many of the people were touched to see a child care about them just by stopping in to say hello. This is a wonderful lesson for children at this time of the year when so much is about receiving. There is a school of suffering that can only be learned at the bedside of the weak, and the lonely. If you have the opportunity to share your time even if only briefly this holiday season, stop by your local hospital and say hello. You will be surprised at the blessing you will be this Christmas to someone who needs some Christmas cheer. "And a Child shall lead them".

From my family to yours, have a very Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at family

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