As I turn my thoughts toward the past, the harsh realities of this hospital room seem to fade and an earlier, youthful version of my mother comes into focus…
It is the wee hours of the morning, but sleep won’t come, so I stare at the ceiling and listen to my mother’s labored breathing. How unnatural she looks, lying motionless in a hospital bed that seems to dwarf her slight body. In life she was a dynamo, constantly in motion, always doing, never one to be still. Now she is comatose. According to the neurologist, the damage caused by the hemorrhage in her brain is irreversible, leaving her partially paralyzed, blind, and unable to speak. Without a miracle her death is imminent; probably sometime in the next few days.
Seeing she had five children, I cannot help wondering how many sleepless nights she spent nursing one or the other of us through a series of childhood illnesses and accidents. I know she sit up with me, in the hospital, after I suffered a brain concussion and a broken arm. All night long I continued to ask the same nonsensical questions – “Where am I? What am I doing here? Why do I have this cast on my arm?" Not once did she grow impatient, although my concussed brain could not long retain the answers she so patiently gave me. In light of that, it seems only fair that I should be sitting with her now. It would be easier if she were conscious so we could talk. Unfortunately, her only response the past five days has been to lightly squeeze our hands. She hasn’t responded at all in more than twenty-four hours and the doctors don’t think she will.Category: December 2008
Winter is not what it used to be. I’m not talking about the weather patterns but the impact of winter. One hundred years ago there was little or no electricity, few houses had central heat or indoor plumbing; automobiles were a rarity, and in winter fresh fruits and vegetables almost nonexistent. Make no mistake – winters were hard. The snow piled up, travel was treacherous, houses were cold, the nights were long with little light and people were often hungry. The only bright spot in that winter wasteland was Christmas. When my late father reminisced about his childhood his memories of Christmas were special. He remembered few gifts but he did recall, with pleasure, hard peppermint candy, an orange and Christmas dinner. The way he remembered it it was the only meal the entire winter where there was more than enough food to go around.
In that context C.S. Lewis’ line, “It was always winter but never Christmas” is especially haunting. Think about it. Without electricity the winter nights were long and dark. Without central heat the houses were never really warm except right next to the pot bellied stove. Communication was limited, only the most affluent had telephones; the mail was sporadic, travel of any distance difficult if not impossible and there was seldom an abundance of food. Truthfully, Christmas was the only thing that made winter bearable, but what if there was no Christmas?
Times have changed; in the United States modern advances have lessened winter’s impact. Most houses have central heat and indoor plumbing. Electricity makes the night nearly as bright as day, snow plows clear the highways and only the severest winter storm impedes travel and then only for a time. Even the poorest families have cell phones, colored televisions and access to the internet. Yet, for many it is still always winter but never Christmas.Category: December 2008