Christmas Eve memories with dear friends, precious despite illness.
I made many trips to the hospital through the fall. Sometimes I went to the 4th floor ICU, sometimes to the 3rd floor Medical-Surgical unit. Always to visit, assist, encourage my dear friend Nancy. Before her illness, she was the encourager, the giver, the friend ever ready to lend an ear, a hand, expertise, ideas, dreams...
It was so difficult for Nancy to be the recipient of others' care, love, and gifts.
Her illness and subsequent complications from heart valve surgery in October escalated into placement of a pacemaker, and an allergic reaction to heparin resulted in loss of circulation to one foot, and several fingertips, ultimately leading to amputation of the foot just after Thanksgiving. Yet, Nancy remained an encourager, a sweet-spirited gracious lady through each trial.
She was so overwhelmed when she received word that missionaries and friends around the world were lifting her up in prayer. Surely, God granted the petitions for peace of mind.
That year, Christmas Eve fell on Sunday, the 4th Sunday, one of the Sundays that my husband, and I, and our three sons served in the nursing home ministry with several other couples and families from our church. A Candlelight service was planned at our church that night, but no choir practice on the schedule that evening.
A couple free hours between the nursing home service and evening church meant that I could go up and spend some time with Nancy. I drove to the hospital and made the now familiar trek from the parking area to the lobby. At the elevators, I met up with our close friends, the Griffin family; they also served in the nursing home ministry. Beth had been the most constant companion to Nancy since our return from camp the first week of August. Beth and Nancy's sister, Jo, took shifts staying with Nancy most waking hours at the hospital. Nancy was so weak after each surgery and recovery attempt that she needed an advocate.
I noticed as I met up with the Griffin family that they carried hymnals, and that Deborah had her viola. We rode up to the 3rd floor together and were greeted by Nancy and Jo with a warm welcome when we entered her room together.
The ensuing hour of singing carols, accompanied by Deb on the viola, was precious. A couple from a nearby room came and listened at the doorway as the room was quite full. The hour was such a gift to each of us and an offering of praise to God for the priceless gift of His Son. I treasure the memory of dear friends gathered together sharing love for each other and God.
I left the hospital after hugging Nancy and Jo and drove to church to join my family for the candlelight service. It seemed that my heart could hardly have been fuller with joy, but hearing the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 account of Jesus' birth in the hushed, candlelit chapel further enhanced the peace and joy I felt.
As I drove home the streets were quiet in that particularly unique way that they are late in the evening on Christmas Eve. Simple white lights twinkled from the trees lining the street and a clear sky was filled with the splendor of God's decorations: sparkling stars, a moon that caused the snow crystals to shimmer. It was an awe-filled silent, beautiful night. A precious memory.