Christmas Present

The gift—and miracle—of life.

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ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPHER REID

It is December, and I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past—of holidays when our lives were consumed by medical crises. First there was the holiday season when Jim, my husband, was seriously ill from multiple infections after extensive surgery. The following year, in an unfairly timed reprise, he had more infections and again required hospitalization.

The world was celebrating around us, but I felt apart—separate from Christmas, from the parties, the carols, the revelry. I pictured the calm scenes of shepherds and angels as disconnected from my life, as if they were a movie playing on our hospital walls. Our world was full of suffering, worry, and the threat of death.

It is December now, and the stalks of my twice-blooming iris have risen again in my Maryland garden. I found the buds weeks ago when I was putting the garden to bed.

“No, no!” I scolded them. “You’ll run out of time!”

I fretted at their coming so late in the season, worried that their optimism and confidence would be punished by the first hard frost. But just ahead of the cold breath of Winter—in the nick of time—the flowers began to open.

As I write this, one bloom sits in a vase among the Christmas decorations in my kitchen, startling and out of place beside a snow globe and an elf. Nobody’s ghost, it is clear yellow like the Sum-mer sun, as open and real as Jim, my cat of nine lives, my survivor.

Praise for life, for miracles that choose their own season, for this Christmas present—in both senses.


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