Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Dinner at McDonald's

Considering it was the only place open in town on Christmas Day, I expected the McDonald’s would be more crowded than it was.  I bought a paper, had a chicken sandwich and fries, and did the crossword.  It was not how I had planned this day.
Midnight mass was glorious last night, and I came home and relaxed a bit before turning in.  I had no need to wake up early Christmas morn.  After waking, I took the turkey out of the refrigerator, and lined up all the ingredients and cookware for the side dishes.  I’d start preparations for a large Christmas meal at around 11.  I had invited some people over for dinner, but none had accepted ---- which was probably part of God’s plan, for the phone suddenly rang at 9:30am.
Debbie, a member of the caregiver’s support group was on the phone:  “Mom had a massive stroke, and is being taken to the hospital.  They said she won’t survive, and I can’t get any of my siblings on the phone.  I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to call.” 
I put the turkey back in the fridge, printed out a map, and headed to the hospital about 30 miles away.
When I got there Deb was frazzled.  One brother was now there --- and mom.  “Christmas!  What a day to have this happen,” Deb said. But I said it was a great day, a day when a great new Life began.  Deb stopped and thought for a moment, and seemed calmer.  “You’re right; this is a good day for this.”  With support for the decisions she had to make, Deb seemed to grow more relaxed as the morning wore on. 
I knew her mom, Donna, because I had visited her a couple of months ago, during the days in which she was in a rehab center just down the street from my house.  Donna was a pleasant woman, and we spent quite a few afternoons talking and watching television together.  She was also a stubborn woman, who wouldn’t let her knee problems lick her, and when she left rehab she was pushing around her wheelchair to go anywhere she wanted without any assistance.  But she wouldn’t survive this day.
I was blessed to have a number of friends who texted me “Merry Christmas” shortly after I arrived at the hospital.  I texted them back to pray for my friend.  Sister Peg was one of those texting, assuring me of prayers.  A priest could not be found, so I called some priest friends, leaving a message that I needed their help ASAP.  They were saying mass at the time.  When they called back an hour later saying they would drive out, I thanked them and said that a local priest had finally been found; and my friends said they’d pray for Donna.  The priest arrived, and a Fr. John administered the final anointing and led us in prayer.    
When I had first arrived, Donna was very troubled by all the tubes and hoses around her body, along with the difficulty breathing and pain, but the ICU staff quickly got her the right dosage of drugs to calm her anxieties and pain.  Deb and her brother prayed with her, and told her not to worry, everything would be all right.  The doctors said the life support equipment was all that was keeping her alive, and as the rest of the family trickled in, talk centered on whether to wait for the brother driving 8 hours from Tennessee.  That decision would be made after dad was finally brought from the nursing home to the hospital, at around 2. 
That was when I left them; these were family decisions, and final goodbyes. I believe God heard the many prayers for Donna, and she held on until her kids and spouse had gathered around her.
It was too late to start cooking a turkey for Christmas dinner, and I debated whether to thaw some piece of meat and cook up some of the Christmas dinner side dishes, but my hunger won out.  I wanted to eat NOW.  I drove down the main drag of Plymouth, and nothing was open.  Then I headed to Canton, driving down the nearly empty main street.  For a Christmas Day, I thought this was a good thing --- except that I was hungry.  When I came to the McDonald’s, I was happy to see it was open.
However, a greasy chicken sandwich and fries do not a Christmas dinner make, even if I did pray over the food before eating.  But then I looked around at the few other people around me.  Most looked as if they were coming from work, while some of the poorer looking ones, the ones with small kids, seemed happy with this, their Christmas dinner.  I guess God gives each of us blessings in different ways.  I thought that perhaps I was the only one there dissatisfied with this meal, but on thinking further, I saw the blessings of the day, and was satisfied. 
I remembered Ron at the 7-11 who was working 24-hours this Christmas day, to give his employees the day off.  I had promised to put together a Christmas dinner plate for him, “with all the fixin’s.”  It was now 4PM, as I finished my meager meal, so I walked back to the McDonald’s counter and ordered up a large burger meal, and then on the way home dropped it off for Ron, explaining why the planned meal had not happened.  “Not to worry.  This is a great blessing for me.  Thank you so much for thinking of me.”
Christmas blessings come in a variety of packages, even a McDonald’s bag.  And it is a day of heavenly births.  Please remember Donna in your prayers.


  1. I came across this post last night and was left touched and more than a little moved by your words.
    Today I came back because I wanted to let you know I'd been here.


  2. Thank you, Paul. It was indeed a special day, for everyone involved. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to you and yours.