Prepare Ye the Way
It’s December 12, 4:40 pm, and my hands are stinging from my act of wifely niceness…I just put the lights on the Douglas Fir With The Unexpectedly Awkward Branch (and the prickliest prickles) that stands in the corner of our living room. Things have entered a new realm of crazy here, and our preparations are late and somewhat haphazard. That’s not really different than other years, honestly…
This year’s season of Advent is a season of preparation in every sense of the word; from baking and mailing cards to lighting our special candles and opening our Advent calendar, we attempt to get ourselves ready for what is a high holy day in our faith.
That said, we’ve only lit our candles one time this season and we had to catch up for a week’s worth of calendar days after church yesterday. And the cards are still in a box on my dining room table, and not one thing has been baked here. Yikes.
For us, this season of preparation has taken on a dual role this year. Our anticipation is not just for the birth of Jesus on Christmas, for the lovely celebration of gifts and food and family. This year Advent has become a season of preparing for my 13 year old daughter to restart chemotherapy after a 5 year break.
5 years sounds like a long time. I assure you, it’s not. It just isn’t long enough.
So while I feel a little overwhelmed about the gifts I haven’t purchased and the unbaked cookies, the ghost of Christmas future is standing at the door once again. Honestly, that’s more overwhelming. He’s awfully creepy looking, you know? Even in the Muppet version…he’s creepy.
This preparation is different than our first bout with chemotherapy, which involved the horror of an initial diagnosis, two surgeries, and unspeakable grief and a deep feeling of abandonment by God. This time I have some time, ironically only BECAUSE my G needed unexpected surgery…my grief is deep, but not unfamiliar, and I have made peace with God in this situation. I still holler at him an awful lot, but at least I know He’s hearing me. ; )
This time I can get things organized in my house (well, as much as I NEVER do, alas), I can get some meals in the freezer, make sure I have a game plan for dealing with unexpected days where I have to miss work, and plan strategies to get my daughter through this. Like our Advent preparations, we know a little bit what’s coming at the end of our 3 weeks of preparation. The visions dancing in our heads are NOT of sugar plums, sadly.
And while the immediate end of this season is scary and uncertain, it does bring with it some hope. The drug my daughter is starting was simply not invented the last time she had to fight. And if this one doesn’t work, there are 2 other new drugs that she can try. There is hope amidst the shadows.
At the heart of our hope is my daughter. Just as the heart of Christmas is a Person, the heart of our hope here is my G. She is funny and mighty and full of attitude. Her Jersey girl attitude and her Irish/Italian/German heritage give her chutzpah, and her beautiful soul gives her the strength of heart to get through.
She is scared. She is sad. But she is so mighty. She will get through.
So we will celebrate this season, albeit in a bittersweet kind of way. We will celebrate our time together as a family, a time once again threatened by the Elephant, and we will celebrate our faith, which we know will give us the fortitude we need to step through the door to the new year and the new fight. We celebrate our friends and family who have already carried us through so much.
And in between buying a gift for my mom and the fixings for our Christmas feast, I will buy extra pretzels and crackers for lunches, Costco sized packages of meat and such to make some casseroles, and maybe even a few documentaries for my history classes for those days when we get stuck at a hospital far from home. We will prepare. I will try to find ways to get MY head in the game, to renew my flagging emotional energy for the fight ahead. We will prepare.
Hopefully amidst our chemo preparation we can have a moment to prepare our hearts for this most beautiful day that is on the horizon, this reminder that we are so loved that a child was sent to us…and in that moment, I will thank God for my children, and for my love for them.
This hurts. A lot. I can’t lie about that. There are moments in the day where I feel like the air is sucked from my lungs and I’m teetering on the edge of some kind of void. But I will get my game face on. We will prepare, and we will roll with the punches, and we will get through. I have to think that even Mary, as she prepared to have Jesus, was a bit taken aback by having to schlep all the way to Bethlehem. Just the thought of donkey smell while pregnant…ugh. Her preparations were challenging too. Hm.
From the kitchen just came the call, “oh my gosh, Christmas is so SOON!” from my 13 year old. If she can focus on Christmas, I should too, right?
That said, maybe I should try to get some baking done…then I will have cookies to munch on while I prepare for whatever is to come. : )