Last Christmas

December 24, 2017

Five years ago on this date, I kept my grandmother company so my aunt and mother could attend the Christmas Eve service at Mary Helen United Methodist Church.

By this time numerous incidents had confined my grandmother to her bed.  She could not speak, only gurgle occasionally.  Her meals were delivered via feeding tube.  The feeding tube also served as the delivery method for administering her pills.  She could not walk or even sit up.  Every two hours she was rolled on a different side to keep her from developing bedsores.  She wore two pairs of diapers at night in addition to having multiple pads to keep any urine from soaking through to the hospital bed.  After you’ve experienced diapering an adult you know you will never, ever complain about changing a baby. 

She was confined to that bed 23 hours per day, her only respite coming when a male neighbor would come over and lift her out of the bed, place her in a wheelchair, and roll her to the front porch so she could have a change of scenery.  And during that hour my aunt (her caretaker) made sure to put fresh sheets on the bed. 

I had read that babies who were not read to or spoken to had lower cognitive activity than babies who did, so I knew she needed interaction to maintain the abilities she had.  Since she and I were the only ones at home I also knew I could do that without interruptions.   

I knew that many people would be attending worship services that evening and thought we needed to partake in one as well. 

So I found a Bible and chair and sat myself down to read aloud to her.  We read Matthew 1 and Luke 2, the accounts of the Christmas story.  Afterward, I sang Christmas carols to her, though the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat did not give the magnificent songs the treatment they deserved.  And in between my tears, we prayed aloud-thanking God for Christmas and the gift that is Jesus Christ. 

In short, we worshiped. 

And in the midst of it all-the crying, the singing, the soft hiss of the hospital bed as the machine adjusted the mattress, and even in the silence-the Spirit of the Lord was there.  We worshiped in pain-she in physical pain, me emotional-but we worshiped.  Even though my heart ached.  Even though it hurt and I was almost angry with God for not coming down and healing her instantly.   Even though my own heart was breaking, I knew we still needed to worship, simply because God is God and even though there are tragedies and disappointments in this life, those tragedies don’t define us.  They may serve as a catalyst but they don’t determine our value or our worth.  Christmas is the reminder that illnesses, circumstances, and hurts don’t get the final say. 

The very birth of Jesus (Christmas) is a reminder that there is a world beyond this one.  Christmas proclaims that death is defeated by one man and that when we experience trials, tribulations, and troubles we can cling to hope because of him.  That all is not lost and though we will experience hurt it will not take away the gift of eternal life we have graciously received from Christ Jesus. 

And in regards to eternal life, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  You needn’t wait until you’ve gotten your life in order.  Christ loves, forgives, and accepts you just as you are.  I once heard a preacher say that the three phrases people most like to hear are, “I love you.  I forgive you.  Let’s eat.”  And when you accept Christ as your savior, you will definitely be loved and forgiven.  And his word tells us that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), so he’s even offering to feed us as well. 

Though I didn’t know it at the time, in a little under six months my grandmother would pass away in her sleep. I am thankful I got to help her celebrate her last Christmas on this earth.  That evening was so fragile, delicate, and humbling.  And while I wish my grandmother were still alive and healthy, I wouldn’t trade that precious evening for anything. 

Sleep in heavenly peace, Granny Cornett.  Sleep in heavenly peace.               

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