Travel back with me to the year 1999 and the Christmas season.Think of all the people crowding the malls decked in their seasonal attire. There are decorations on every street. Christmas trees shining brightly through windows. Yards decorated with reindeer, Santas, snowmen. People rushing to buy the newest toy and getting upset to learn that they've all been sold. Now travel with me to a children's hospital. Picture the halls of hospitals decked out with Christmas decorations on stark, cold walls. Children roaming those halls with IV poles, in wheelchairs, some not even aware of the season or unable to leave their beds. Their family praying for a different kind of miracle. Their siblings wondering "Will we be able to go home for Christmas?" The child wondering if Santa will deliver his toys to the hospital. The parents wondering how will we be able to afford to buy our children Santa. Parents hurting but trying to keep a smile on their faces. This was the Christmas we faced in 1999.
Our son, Clayton, was admitted into the hospital in October of 1999 to await a heart transplant. In November of 1999, we got our Christmas wish. Our son had a new heart and would still be with us Christmas. Due to him rejecting that heart, he was still in the hospital on Christmas Eve, not to mention that he was still in CICU. We had bought nothing for our other two children. A male nurse told us that morning "Get out of this hospital and buy your kids some little something. I promise I will not leave Clayton's side". We grudgingly left our son's side and headed to the mall. We rapidly picked up a couple of things each for our children. Nothing for each other. We had our gift. Our son was given the gift of life. Nothing we could buy each other could ever amount to that priceless gift we received on November 30th. Within two hours, we were back at the hospital amid confusion and joy. Clayton's surgeon had decided to put Clayton in a private room on the cardiac floor. His CICU nurse was right there with him! He kept his promise and didn't leave Clayton even though Clayton had his own nurse on the cardiac floor.
Shortly after we got back, Clayton's surgeon came into the room. Eric, the male nurse, was still with us settling Clayton in. We begged his surgeon to please let us get a motel room for the night so we could spend Christmas as a family. Eric was right there with us arguing our case. The surgeon gave Clayton a 24 hour pass out of the hospital. One of our cousins booked us a room into a very nice hotel, bought a small Christmas tree, gifts for the kids, and, unknown to us, had decorated the tree and had it in our hotel room when we walked in with all 3 children. The gifts, well, he had them hid in his car. Santa came that night and the children had more gifts than we could ever imagine.
Christmas morning... The surprise on our daughter's face (she was 14 at the time) was priceless. The joy on Clayton's and Charlie's faces (10yrs, 9yrs) was indescribable. The love we felt that day.. no words can desribe. We were in for more surprises! We only had a couple of hours for the kids to enjoy their gifts from "Santa" before we had to pack up and go back to Clayton's cold, sterile hospital room.
When we walked into his hospital room, it was filled with presents. Two churches had adopted our children that Christmas! We just stood there in awe with tears streaming down our faces. Our daughter, Michelle, looked around and started crying. She said, "Mom, this is too much. We don't need all these presents. There are probably kids here who didn't get any. Do you mind if we just keep a couple and distribute the others to the kids on the floor?" I was so in awe of my daughter at that moment. I asked the nurses if it would be okay to do that. My aunt had also made teddy bears for every kid on that floor. So, my husband, myself, and our children lovingly rewrapped those presents, sorted them into wagons according to age, and walked down the halls of that cardiac floor and was able to give back. The joy and surprise on those children's faces I will remember til my dying day. The selflessness of my children that day has continued to this day and I believe will always be a part of them. The kindness of strangers touched many lives that day. One little random act of kindness had an escalating effect.
This Christmas, if you have more than you need, or just want to share in the spirit of Christmas, remember those children in hospitals that will be fighting for their lives on Christmas day. Think about the financial hardship their parents must be going through. Think of the heartache those parents are feeling knowing that they can't afford to give their children much. Ask your churches to adopt a child or a childrens hospital or childrens hospital floor. Think of what it means to a child to receive just a small toy such as a matchbox car, barbie doll, coloring books and crayons. Help put a sparkle in that child's eye and help him forget, for just a few moments, the crippling, life-threatening, debilitating disease that is attacking his body. Speaking as a parent who has been on the receiving end of such a gift, it really does mean the world to a child and takes a huge burden off of the parent. It gives the whole family peace, joy, hope. God Bless you all and Merry Christmas!