When our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters decend upon us. ~Narrator, A Christmas Story
A Texas Christmas Story…
Christmas eve was in full swing and promised to be a glorious one. All the preparations went off without a single hitch. The house was decorated more completely and beautifully than ever before. Every kid of mine, with their respective spouse and family in tow, arrived early. Donya and the girls were working away in the kitchen and the beautiful aroma of the traditional Christmas flautas wafted on the refrigerated air, for it was to exceed 80 degrees outdoors, which, so far, was the only possible grievance anyone could have. (And who is going to be aggrieved with the Weather-Maker on the eve of His sending salvation in swaddling clothes?!)
On the back porch, basking in the leftover Summer/Fall sunshine, I was nursing a fine cigar, listening to yarns spun by my octogenarian father-in-law, and shaking my head at my mother-in-law’s obsessive love for gardening. She had taken shears to address the Oleanders.
All was right with the world.
I watched her in what seemed like a slow-motion replay. She took an awkward step, her leg gave way, and she plunged to the earth. By the time Edward (my son-in-law) and I reached her, Memaw (her matronly nickname) was rolled to her back, wincing in obvious pain, praying, “Oh, Lord. Please no.”
Edward, powerful mule of a man that he is, scooped her up in his arms and carried her inside. Within an hour, we were on our way to the Baylor Scott & White Orthopedic and Spine Hospital in Arlington. X-rays confirmed she had broken her hip. It was of such severity as to warrant surgery ASAP and a ball joint replacement. Christmas night, Donya stayed at the hospital with her, and I spent the night with my father-in-law.
We did manage to squeeze in “Christmas” with our kids. (That is a misnomer: Christmas does not require family gatherings, revelings, or gift exchanges in order to be celebrated.)
“When our joy is at its zenith…”
While a few of us were in the surgery waiting room, we were discussing the unfortunate timing of the whole thing and why bad things happen to good people and often at the most inconvenient time. (Not sure when tragedy is convenient, but there has to be a better time than Christmas Eve, am I right?)
It dawned on me and I said it to the others: “Given the condition of humankind and the world we occupy, ever since that first bite of the apple in Eden, the wonder is not that anything bad happens; the wonder is that anything good happens. And the reason for the good is grace. This weekend, we are celebrating God’s first massive step in extending us this grace. I promise you, Memaw understands and appreciates this as much as anyone I know.”
It also hit me that the Christmases we remember are not the cookie-cutter ones, where each one looks exactly like the one before and they melt together into one inseparable “Christmas memory.” The ones we remember are the ones that were different – and the ones where God directed us back to our knees, to the altar, when He said as clear as a starlit Christmas night, “Remember Me. Trust Me. Worship Me.”
This is where we find “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” whatever besets us, whatever befalls.
This Christmas may forever be remembered as Memaw’s Calamitous Christmas, but if it took breaking a hip to direct us to prayer, she would be the first one to do just that.
God bless her and all the faithful like her. And God bless you and yours.