Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Birthday Party

Today is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  We don’t really celebrate his death today, but rather his birth into new life, in heaven.  But this day is special in another way also:  it is the day that the man called Saul led others into committing the murder of St. Stephen, a most grievous sin.  Yet this same Saul would one day be St. Paul, one of the greatest saints of the Church.  Out of this great, but necessary, evil, there arose a great good --- in God’s time.
Out of the great evils in our lives there will also arise great goods, in God’s time.  In times of great evil, we need great faith that this will be so.
As I entered church this morning I noticed the box on the floor.  It contained a pile of elastic bracelets with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) printed on them.  Seeing them there, as I knelt in the pew I recalled the events of yesterday.
After Deb’s initial panic telling me of her mother’s stroke, she ended the phone call as she entered the hospital, promising to call me back soon.  As I waited for her return call, I anticipated her asking me to come there, since she was alone, and so I printed out the route to the hospital.  And as I was reading over the directions --- I swear to you --- I just thought:  WWJD.  Not the words, just the letters, like those printed on the bracelets.  And almost immediately I knew the answer:  by now Jesus would have been in His car, on the way to helping His scared child.  And so I put the turkey back into the refrigerator, and was two-thirds of the way there when Deb called me back.
When I finally got home last night, after my “Christmas dinner” I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, and certainly not opening the pile of presents which lay under the Christmas tree in the living room.  Oh, I didn’t feel bad, or even sad, but I didn’t feel like celebrating either.  Instead I got back into the car and went to the local chapel and said my night prayers, and there thanked God for being with me this day.  And I thanked Him for the friends --- and their prayers --- He sent my way also.  And I felt very much at peace, like everything was as it should have been. 
Deb called me later, on her way home from the hospital.  Donna had died at about 6PM, peacefully.  Deb and her family never did have to make that tough decision about ending life support.  Donna just decided it was time to go home.
Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit
This morning, in thinking about St. Stephen’s death, new life, and the great good that eventually came out of that terrible event, it helped me cast the events of yesterday in a new light.  Donna’s death, with her family around her, and her birth into new life, in some ways mimicked St. Stephen’s death, except that while he was surrounded by enemies, Donna was surrounded by friends and family.  And while we now celebrate St. Stephen’s death as a feast day, Donna’s death occurred on Jesus’ birthday.  And as He welcomed her, Donna’s soul became Jesus’ birthday present, one her family willingly gave to Him.
I thought about MY dinner and MY presents at home and MY Christmas celebration, and I realized that for perhaps the first time ever, I participated in a real Christmas celebration, a Christmas birthday party, that was focused not on me, but on the guest of honor.  From the amazingly polite and sympathetic ICU staff to her family to the priest who administered the last rites, everyone knew Donna was dying this Christmas Day, and there was a feeling among all that this was a special Christmas Day.  And so it was.
For me, this might have been the best Christmas ever, as --- WWJD --- I welcomed doing what He would have done, and I felt the whole fitness of the unfolding events, like I could actually see His plan, and everyone who played their part so well, on this day at Jesus’ birthday party.
And He was truly present.
I hope I will have more days when WWJD comes unbidden into my mind, and my life.  I like being at the parties Jesus throws.
- - - - - - - - - -
The people at the 7-11 told me this morning how much their boss, Ron, enjoyed his “Christmas dinner” last night.  They said he was just giddy talking about the double-quarter pounder and maxi fries, something he hadn’t had in years.  “It was the best Christmas dinner I had in a long time.  I relished every bite” he said.
Go figure.


  1. This post gives me a lot to reflect on, and I thank you for that.

    I didn't log in yesterday to see the posting about Deb and Donna and Donna's crises, but I can't imagine what they went through as this all unfolded. How I feel for them, and how I am just praising God today that they never had to make a decision about life support, because the Lord came and took her Himself at the right time. What I love about that is His mercy; that He spared Deb from ever having doubts in the future about if they did His will or the right thing.

    And I think it is wonderful that when Deb could not reach her siblings, she turned to you. That in itself is a wonderful gift to you, and evidence that you are someone others trust in a crises and especially when serious end of life decisions need to be made. That makes you a good friend, and a good service to the Lord.

    Christmas lasts 2 weeks. You can cook your turkey dinner, and all the fixin's and maybe invite others over on Sunday, or next week for New Year's Eve or whenever, and celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord, God With Us. But Deb needed you right then, and you came, which is what God needed from you.

    I would say, this may be the best Christmas gift you ever gave.
    God bless you, and Merry Christmas. Fran

  2. I thank you for your kind comments, Fran, and in all humility I agree that the Lord did allow me to be an instrument of His peace. And I am thankful. Re life support, if you read my posts a couple of years ago about the trauma of my closest friend and her mom's death, you do know how awful is the decision to end life supports. My friend still has many doubts and much anxiety about that time. I am afraid those doubts may ever remain with her. It is truly hard to trust in God, when we think that we are the ones making the decisions.

  3. I'll try to look back and find those posts from the past. I understand some of the trauma of that since a girlfriend of mine had to go through this with her father, and still, years later, she spoke if it with such pain and sorrow, even though she knew it was the right decision, still, just remembering those days caused her such pain.

    It is all the more amazing that Donna received the blessings to die peacefully with all her family around, and having received the final blessings, and on Christmas Day. It is truly a wondrous story.