Evening Came and Morning Followed, the Second Day
The angel choirs had returned to the highest heavens; the shepherds had returned to guard their flocks by day. The fanfare of the first Noel had ended, and now Mary and Joseph had hard realities to consider. They were a displaced family far from their home in Nazareth and it was not practical to return home immediately; their current lodging was a stable; there were surely monetary and employment considerations made more dismal by the littleness of Bethlehem; even the political landscape presented problems: the Roman authorities edict had brought them to Bethlehem in the first place and here Herod wielded a scepter that he was soon to unleash on infant boys of the district. Mary and Joseph’s Child was God, Savior and King, but these marvelous truths did not mean that the world’s troubles were not part of the Divine Plan for the Holy Family.
For us, for a day or so, Christmas seems to melt away our concerns. Good presents, good wishes, good food, good music good friends & family and good liturgies can make us forget problems for a moment. Then evening comes and morning follows, and we may be given cause to wonder if His coming has really changed things. If nothing else, we know of Herods and Grinches, some of our own construction, lurking to steal away the glad tidings of great joy from us.
The glorious tidings came this year for me amidst the strangest set of circumstances of any Yuletide of my life. Here’s what happened.
It all began one day when a rabbit or a group of rabbits (a herd?) decided that our car was better fodder than the acres of edible stuff that surrounded it. Peter Cottontail & friends hopped down the bunny trail and began gnawing away at the spark plug wires on the car. Each morning and evening I would see three cottontails around the car. I did not realize that I should have been fearing them. Watching Bugs Bunny as a kid had led me to believe that carrots were food of choice for rabbits, but now I know that the soy that is used in the spark plug wires’ casing is their preferred winter dining. My sympathies are completely with Elmer Fudd now. Chewed wires can disable a car and did ours this Advent.
Then Mom settled down for a long winter’s nap and really went overboard. I could not wake her up, so I called the ambulance, and we were off to the hospital. Thirty-six hours after dozing off, she awoke in the hospital room as if everything was perfectly normal. This deep sleep and trip to the hospital was repeated 10 days later on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. One of the many doctors we saw during this time suggested that the best thing for Mom would be to take her home where she would be more comfortable. I said that she needed to be able to get some food and water into her. He said that if the goal was to keep her alive then an IV would have to be started and she would have to be in the hospital. This did seem better than taking her home to starve and dehydrate. After the second stay, we moved in with John and Wendy (brother-in-law and sister) and their five boys. The convenience of this is that they live a block from the hospital, just in case we needed it again. Otherwise it was not convenient for them, especially for son Phillip whose room we occupied. Mom and I became a displaced family though the Whittum’s home is much nicer than a stable.
We were still at the Whittums during the Octave of Christmas when we found out that our accumulated mail, about a week’s worth, had been stolen out of our mailbox. I understand this was a common sort of theft this Christmas – the thieves were hoping to find gift cards and treats and whatever might be of use to them in a Christmas greeting. I wonder if they were merry gentlemen with what they got from our box.
The Child has come, but we all have our troubles great and small. What difference does His coming make? Blessed Mother shows us. Jesus’ coming is not a short-lived instance. It is not a fanfare event. It is a quiet coming into the heart where we can ponder and treasure Who He is and be always recollected in that grace. Peace on Earth doesn’t do away with the warfare in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it does give us the peace that an Army chaplain said is realized in placing ourselves in the center of God’s Will. We fail Christmas in letting difficulties great and small overwhelm that tranquility that should be present within us knowing that the Will of God, His Love, is to be found among them if we will ponder and treasure that Love in our hearts.
Mom teaches this every day. If she relied on things or people of this world for her happiness, she would be primarily dependent upon me. That would be depressing. Walking, talking, eating, drinking, bathing (but not sleeping!) are all difficult or impossible for her to do on her own. Yet she is happy – ready to clap or smile or laugh or sing throughout the day. Troubles – they don’t seem to exist for Mom.
How did the events within the Will of God during Advent/Christmas turn out for us?
The Rabbit-Eaten Car. John Whittum went out to the farm on a freezing night after getting home from work about midnight and put in the spark plug wires which nephew Brent had purchased. So eaten were the wires that he couldn’t tell the firing order, but he was able to get it off the internet on his cell phone and successfully got the car going. Phillip went out to the farm and shot some rabbits. (This was good practice for his elk hunting trip a few days later. He, of 16 years of age, got his first elk near Craig, Coloraodo.)
Mom’s Sleeping. All the tests, including an EEG, showed no reason for her deep sleep. The doctors said she seems to be in exceptionally good health. But greater than the good news on her physical condition was the great graces bestowed on her through the Divine Physician’s instruments, his good priests. The first night in the emergency room came Father Bermudez who had just finished saying the 5:30 evening Mass after having flown back from visiting his home in Puebla, Mexico. He anointed Mom and gave us Holy Communion. The next evening, a Sunday, Father Thuerauf came again with Holy Communion. Tuesday of that same week, Father Chiapa came to our home to anoint Mom and give us Holy Communion. This was the first time in my lifetime that a priest had come into our home and the first time anyone in the family can remember that our Lord had come into the house. On the second hospital trip Father Thuerauf came to the ER and anointed Mom. Father Chiapa came the next day to the hospital and gave us Holy Communion. This is the Year of the Priest, and for sure I have never been more grateful for the priesthood and the powers that have been given to priests and for these three tremendous priests that in no way would let Mom be left starving for Our Lord.
The Stolen Mail. While Mom and I were still at John and Wendy’s, my brother Jim went out to the farm to check on things and while there a call came from the post office that some of our mail had been found 10 miles from our house, on a back road west of Wiggins. The person who found it was a high school classmate of my brother John. All the mail had been opened, but the items had been put back in the envelopes and left in a pile. This included three Christmas cards all from Virginia: one from the Whittums (John’s parents), and two from Nokesville: one from Steve and Erin Vander Woude and one from Bob and Bea Pennefather. Who would have thought those Christmas cards would have had such an adventure in getting to us. There is at least one thing that the thieves made away with: brother Dave in Reno had sent us some Christmas cookies that he had ordered. This is a tremendous loss to be sure, but we are glad that the mailbox looters left what we presume to be most of the mail where it could be found and redelivered and without any residue of cookie crumbs to be found.
There is much more to be told about this Christmas and the goodness and generosity that were shown to Mom and me, but it is too much for me to talk about now. Adequate gratitude is impossible to express, but the overwhelming charity we have experienced, which is an expression of God’s love in others, is something to be pondered and treasured. And it is certainly something that prompts daily prayer of thanksgiving and of petition that God will bless and reward the generous.
Mom and I returned home, evening came and morning followed – a bitterly cold, windy, snowy morning. The night brought -13 degree temperatures and a frozen water pipe to the kitchen sink. I see rabbits, three of them, hopping around the car this afternoon. But Mom’s awake and our mail, which is being held at the post office now, will be brought to us some day. Ponder and treasure, and be at peace. So easy, right? Hey, I just checked and the water is flowing in the kitchen sink again. Troubles do just melt away. St. Teresa of Avila is right: Todo se pasa. Dios no se muda.
For 2010 we will be posting on the 10’s: 10th, 20th and 30th of each month, except in February when we will do one on the 28th since there is no 30th.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Jesu, ufam Tobie.