by Robin Parton
Manitou Springs, CO
IN DECEMBER OF 2005, my 50-year-old husband surprised us with a heart attack. When the technician told him that his enzymes were quite high, he asked what he would get for such a high score. He was told “a trip to the cath lab” where a stent was inserted into his 100-percent blocked artery. After a few days in the cardiac care unit, he was sent home. The pain at the site of insertion continued to worsen over the next few days, and our attempts to get answers were blown off with “pain is normal.” Finally, it became apparent that a trip to the emergency room was necessary. He was admitted and was given generous care for the pain. The next morning the cardiologist came in to take a look at him, and he was immediately taken to surgery. After surgery I was told by the surgeon that he had come within minutes of losing his right leg and that had the infection gone much longer, he could have lost his life. He had both a strep and staph infection and was very sick. Over the next few days, we were told that he would have to spend Christmas in the hospital. Although this news was hard to bear, we were just glad to be through the crisis time. I remembered the founder of Christian Womanhood, Mrs. Marlene Evans’, talking about making her hospital stays fun, so we decided that we would do just that. Here are some of the ideas we used to make Christmas in the hospital an unforgettable celebration:
1. With permission from the hospital staff, we first set out to decorate my husband’s room. We hung his cards on the wall, decorated with garland, hung a big bow on his door, hung a stocking, and borrowed a small table-top artificial Christmas tree. In an attempt to give the room a bit more of a Christmas atmosphere, we brought in a CD player and played Christmas music.
2. Of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas candy! We made sure that my husband had a generous supply of Christmas candy to give to all of his caregivers, along with Gospel tracts from our church.
3. We brought our gifts to the hospital. We have always kept our Christmas giving very simple for our family in an attempt not to go into debt, nor to have to outdo ourselves in succeeding years, so bringing our gifts was doable. (Some may want to wait until after the loved one is home to celebrate and open gifts, but with three children in Bible college, we only had a few days with which to work.)
4. We talked to my husband’s doctor to find out if there were any limitations on what he could eat for Christmas dinner. Then we talked to the nursing staff to find out if we could use microwaves to reheat food items. We cooked the entire Christmas dinner the day before Christmas and divided it into containers to load into coolers and bring to the hospital. We wheeled our coolers in on wheelchairs and set up the entire feast on a utility table, including our traditional Preacher’s Punch. Although it required some extra work, it was well worth the effort to all be together keeping as much of our Christmas tradition as possible.
5. Christmas was on a Sunday in 2005, so we asked our church members not to visit on Sunday afternoon, giving our family the time alone with Dad. Then I secretly invited them all over after the Sunday evening service for a time of singing. A couple of our ladies took it a bit further, providing Christmas punch and cookies for our people out in the lobby. After a time of the whole group’s singing Christmas carols, everyone went to the lobby for cookies and punch while one family at a time came in to spend a few minutes alone with their preacher. I took keepsake pictures of each family with my husband.
If you are receiving the news that a loved one will be spending Christmas in the hospital, may I encourage you to make the best of it? Do not fall prey to feeling sorry for yourself or for anyone else involved. This Christmas was an eye opener for our family. It helped us to see that for years as we sat at home enjoying a leisurely day off, many folks were spending the day working, and most of them in service positions. Day after day the valet workers parked our two vans, and they were there on Christmas Day too. Day after day folks changed the bed sheets, emptied trash cans, and sanitized areas of use, and they were there on Christmas Day too. Day after day nurses cared for our loved one’s needs, and they were there on Christmas Day too.On and on I could go.
We would not have chosen to spend Christmas in this way, but I am thankful that God allowed us this time. There is nothing like coming very close to losing your loved one to help your focus. We tell our families that Christmas is not all about the food and the gifts, but in 2005 our children lived with one desire, to have the gift of their dad for years to come. We tell our families that Christmas is all about the gift of God’s Son, but in 2005 our children lived a better reality of what it may have done to the heart of God to give His Son for us. Whatever God allows into our lives, whether it be Christmastime or any other time, let us remember that it is allowed by a loving Heavenly Father Who longs for us to draw nearer.
RECIPE FOR PREACHER’S PUNCH:
1 2-liter bottle of Sprite, 1 64-ounce bottle of cranberry juice, 1 cup of orange juice
Mix together and add orange slices for a festive look. Enjoy!
Thank you, Robin, for choosing to turn a sad situation into a festive one. God used it to cheer up our “church family” at a time when we were burdened for our Pastor’s well-being. None of us will soon forget that Christmas in the hospital.