I spent one of the best Christmases of my life in the hospital.
My mother had cancer when I was growing up. She was diagnosed when I was five, and would spend weeks in and out of the hospital. When it would be time for one of her stays there, I’d be sent to live with a family friend.
At first, these trips terrified me. I had never spent any time away from Mom up until that point, so it was strange being away from her. Eventually though, like with anything, I started getting used to them. It was still hell being away from her for so long, but I knew that eventually she’d return and our little family would be reunited once more.
Then, one year, as the holidays creeped around the corner, we found out that she’d have to spend much of December in the hospital. She wouldn’t be home for Christmas.
When she told me, it was as if someone had just said Santa had decided to call it quits.
Christmas was the best time of year for both of us. During the holidays, mom always made it feel like everything in our lives was okay. It was as if, for at least a few days, all our troubles were gone. We’d forget about her cancer or our lack of money, and just have fun together.
The idea of that not happening , that we’d have to spend our favorite time of the year in separate places, devastated us.
Then, I guess you could say a Christmas miracle happened.
I remember my spirits being at an all-time low when the family friend I was staying with called me into the kitchen to tell me the news. My mother’s doctor and the nurses in her ward bent some rules and were able to make it so that I could stay with her for Christmas.
When I arrived on Christmas eve, mom was happier than I can ever remember seeing her. She first showed me the private room they had given her for our stay together. The nurses had brought a cot in for me to sleep on, and had even put up a few decorations.
Then we went down to the cafeteria for some Christmas eve dinner. Over hamburgers and French fries, I told her about school and the play I had been in the week before. It was our school production of “A Christmas Carol,” and I had played Scrooge’s nephew Fred.
Later that night, as I continued my own tradition of not being able to sleep on Christmas eve, I thought about Fred’s speech. During the scene where we first meet Scrooge in his office, his nephew tries to convince him about the merits of Christmas and the good that it can do.
I had spent weeks trying to memorize it, but I had never thought much about what it meant. But that night, as listened to the sounds of the hospital, I think the meaning of it finally clicked.
Mom’s been gone now for almost twelve years. I have had many wonderful Christmases since that night, but that one in particular will always stay with me.