Last Monday, we sat together in a visiting area on the fourth floor of the UNC Cancer Hospital. My friend Delores and I talked, away from her sleeping husband in a room down the hall. I hadn’t seen her since my Book Launch on April 6th. That day, I was surprised and thankful that Delores was able to come because she’d been so busy going back and forth to treatment with her husband; after four years in remission, his melanoma had returned.
Delores has supported me over the years of our friendship that date back to ninth grade. We sang in a church youth group and loved ‘riding around’ on Sunday afternoons before our meetings at my Grandma’s Presbyterian church. We enjoyed fun times of talking and laughing for hours, telling the tales of girls before the responsibilities of life were pressing down.
When I went through breast cancer, she was there for me. In the opening chapter of my memoir, I tell about a trip to the Smokey Mountains with Delores. She was the kind of friend I felt I could safely show my bald head when I was still dealing with my self-consciousness. Now, I see how carefully she tends her husband, advocating for him with the hospital staff, showing her persistent attention to detail even when I know she’s very tired, and sometimes, weary.
We talked for a couple of hours in the small enclosed area, swapping accounts of the past months; both of us are dealing with problems with our husbands. The issues are different but some of the feelings are similar.
Neither of us will have a Hallmark Christmas.
I tell her about how my family will navigate the holiday, the usual Christmas Eve dinner at my house now switched to my son’s– better for my grandson’s sleep schedule and for a more neutral setting. She and her children and grandchildren will celebrate Christmas in the hospital room– no tree or smell of ham baking but the sweet aroma of a family’s love pulled close around their beloved Daddy and ‘Grandpa Pat.’
Their time at UNC hospital is lasting longer than they anticipated. Delores mentioned that she’d put her name on the list to stay at the hospital hotel to avoid the long drive home after an exhausting day.
Quick thoughts of my open Christmas schedule, my house that now holds only me, the emptiness that I sometimes feel, were interrupted by the obvious solution.
“Come stay with me. I’d be glad to have some company, and we can have more time to visit. It’ll be a lot better than you driving down those dark country roads each night.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose?” she said, in her typical thinking-of-you-first way.
“Absolutely. Besides, that forces me to clean out that room and move forward with getting the house in better shape for the market.” I’d told her that we’d be selling the house next year. Every task I do now saved me from a pile up of things I’d have to do then.
I left the hospital with my mind buzzing with my plan for preparing her room. It’s easy to let things go when you live by yourself; now I felt a burst of energy because I was having ‘company’ and you always want your house to look nice for company!
Delores called me two days later to arrange to spend Friday night. I was sad that she had to be at the hospital, that her husband was going through this, but I was happy that she could rest in my home. For the first time in my life, I lived by myself like a ‘single’ woman and I was having my good friend spend the night. I set about washing the sheets, dusting the furniture, scrubbing the tub, and planning a simple dinner.
I had no idea a year ago that this is how I’d be spending Christmas, that two long-time friends would be sharing a house and conversation– not as girls, but as grown women who’ve lived a lot of years since our days of high school and church youth group.
It occurs to me that our personal faith in God has carried each of us over all those years. For both of us, while in very different situations, our loving God has been the source of our strength that others’ say we’ve exhibited during these trying times.
Thanks be to God, for all these mercies, including my special Christmas guest.
17 thoughts on “My Christmas Guest”
Thinking of Delores and her husband and you Connie. I’m pleased your faith has helped you. Merry Christmas xxx
Thanks so much for your good thoughts. Delores and her husband will appreciate that as well. Yes, my faith is my Rock–even though I still wonder why this is happening. I walk forward, as we all do, with faith that things will get better and in time, I will see purpose in what I’ve walked through.
Best to you during this holiday season, Julia. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
Ms. Connie…you have always been special to our family (especially to mom)! I know God has aligned your paths again to bring a blessing to both of you this season! I wish you a very Merry Christmas!!
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I like how you say, “God has aligned your paths” because that is how I feel. Who would have ever thought your mom and I would be having a Christmas like this!
I wish the best for you at this time. I know you love your dad so much, and he loves his ‘little’ girl. You are a huge support to him and to your mom– she’s told me that many times.
Blessings to you and your family in this special season,
What a blessing for both of you! I am especially moved by your acknowledgment that, “Neither of us will have a Hallmark Christmas.” It makes me stop and pause. It’s just three of us this year at my home, but I am thankful for the time to recharge and focus on what’s important. Sometimes the pressure and work making “Hallmark memories” makes me forget that. Merry Christmas, Connie, and may a new decade bring you new and wonderful surprises! ❤️
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Yes, that pressure– especially on mothers, to create ‘Hallmark moments’ for our families is a huge pressure. I’ve felt less stress, in some ways, this Christmas season because no matter what I do, I can’t make things more than what they are.
I forget that we’re heading into a new decade– so thanks for reminding me and for your good wishes.
You have an exciting year ahead with becoming a Grandmother (we haven’t gotten to talk about that!). It’s as wonderful as every cliche’ you’ve ever heard!
Karen, you work very hard and deserve a time of rest, renewal, and remembering the gift of God’s grace at Christmas.
Blessing to you and your family,
Thank you for sharing your prep for the Holidays. The door that closed made sure that you have another door open when you needed it. I am confident that you will find the path before you will not be as difficult as anticipated. When you reflect this last year, I pray that you become aware that this is not as bad as it is just different and challenging. You are living the life custom made for you. You handle the Bad, the Different, and the Challenge much better than most. Begin to cherish these new things and take them for another ride. Best to you and yours. Be sure that Christmas will be just as you like it. 💖
Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments. Yes, this path is a different kind of ‘solo journey.’ In a way it’s like I’ve been preparing for it by learning to enjoy time on my own.
I like what you say about reframing this experience as different and challenging– both things that stretch us in good ways.
You enjoy Christmas as well, doing the things that you like.
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You are welcome. and Thank you.
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Thanks so much, Marie. Wishing everyone a lovely holiday.
Connie, I am so grateful that you can minister to Delores in this personal and practical way. She and her family are my dear friends and I have been praying unceasingly for God to provide specifically for Delores. He answered in a beautiful way. You are giving her strength which she uses to care for Johnny. Thank you so much! Have a Blessed Christmas.
Thanks so much for reading and for sharing from your friendship with Delores. It has been such a hard year for them. Johnny could have no better person watching out for him than Delores. It’s so interesting to see how God has worked to answer your prayers and is also helping me through my first Christmas after separating from my husband.
I hope you have a blessed Christmas as well. I’m thankful that Delores has you in her life and for how your prayers have had a ripple effect!
.. I could feel the excitement in your words as you offered a solution to help your weary friend ~ Opening up your home, making it comforting and cozy for her, what a gift – to you both~! Here’s to friendship!
Merry Christmas, MJ
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your reaction. Yes, sometimes the unexpected can really energize us. It has been a gift to me– taking some of my focus on me and putting it on my friend.
I wish you the best, MJ in this holiday season and into the new year, the new decade!
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Merry Christmas Connie. Continued prayers for you & your family. Delores & I worked together at J.C. Penney after high school our senior year. I didn’t know about her husband. I guess I better get in touch with her myself. Wishing you the best this Christmas. God Bless
Sorry I’m just getting to responding. I didn’t know you and Delores worked together at J.C. Penney. We were just talking the other night about how I’d worked across the street at Rose’s during Christmas when she was at Penney’s.
Her husband is doing better and has been moved to a rehab unit at UNC. I know she’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for your prayers for me and my family. I think, overall, we did pretty well through the holidays. I do feel a bit relieved that I’m past them now.
Best to you and your family as we approach the new year, the new decade,
p.s. I’m eating dinner with Donna tonight! Next time you’re back this way, we should plan a Jonesboro reunion!