It’s that time of year when mailboxes are full of Christmas greetings and well wishes for a prosperous New Year. Some of those cards contain annual family newsletters; my mailbox is no exception to all the holiday greetings. Two of my friends are wonderfully creative with their letters and I look forward to them when the snow starts to fly, actually passing them around to friends who stop to visit with a, “Hey! Check this out! Is this family a hoot or what?” Others I read and, while happy for all their glowing successes, wonder – does life ever challenge them? Is life really this sugar coated and perfect? Why is it they never seem to have a problem to overcome or a testimony of triumph to tell?
Over the years, as a struggling single mom, I have been tempted to write one of those letters just so others would get a glimpse of what the other side of reality looks likes during the normal course of the year. This year, as a mom (still single) and now a caregiver, I decided to write a Christmas letter in gratitude and with thanks to my God for bringing Anthony and me through what was unquestionably the crappiest year we have ever had. Hopefully, readers will embrace it for what it is – a testimony of triumph and a nod to the power of love.
Dear Family and Friends,
Merry Christmas! The Greco’s hope this letter finds you well and happy as you gather with your loved ones. What can I say about this past year that you, as a faithful reader of the blog and prayer partner, don’t already know? Perhaps my deepest thoughts about it all? Well, as has been written, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
To recap, in case you missed an installment, Anthony came close to death, twice. So close that my heart was shocked into a state of numbness, my breath ripped from my lungs with all the velocity of oxygen being sucked from a punctured airplane cabin at thirty thousand feet. My life force drained as I sat by his bed trying to make sense of it all. This state of existence went on for me, non-stop, 24/7, for fourteen months; not one moment of anything different – high level, constant, non-stop adrenalin stress rushes. Anthony’s life was flattened on every conceivable level and I was helpless as all he knew collapsed like a house of cards – health, employment, finances, and matters of the heart d.o.a when the love of his life was called upon to endure a short term inconvenience. It was all gone in the twinkling of an eye and I was left to wonder what in the heck God was doing to a kid who had only been good and loving to all who knew him. It made no sense. In the deepest pain of my heart, I could not see God. I was pissed. It was the worst of times.
But people rallied. They prayed – unceasingly. They loved us. They gave when the gas gauge hovered above E. They put food in the refrigerator. They paid a bill. They tucked money in my hand. They gave hugs. They found ways to encourage Anthony and uplift his spirits in ways I could not. They taught me what it meant to be a caregiver. And then, one day I looked up from the deepest pain of my heart and there He was; I saw God. There He was looking every bit like Trudy and Jeremy, Clara, Amy, Carol and Wes, Ed, Justine, Joleen and Richard, David, Tony, Eric, Bridget, Carolyn and her Bible Study ladies, the Chinese Church in Chicago, Terry and Rebecca, my walking buddies from the Grove, my church family, my family, my newly found CCFA family, Anthony’s medical team, his therapist, hundreds of people lifting Anthony in prayer and healing light and others I’m sure I don’t know about now, but will meet one day in glory.
You see, it would have been easy to default to trite platitudes of, “God will provide” and hope it would be so, but hope is not enough in situations like this. No. You have to KNOW in the very DNA which gives life that God’s intention is only the highest and best for each of us and that He does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. It is a far more powerful and empowering experience to be hit smack between the eyes with absolute KNOWING. I now know, that I know what I know. I have learned, in my nano second of enlightenment, that God never abandoned us and that His ultimate plan for any of us does not include illness or a “less than” existenence as a permanent state of being on this physical plane. Illness is not an act of retribution by the god many would have us to believe. No, I feel strongly the plan is about finding reason, meaning, and purpose for everything that happens to us, even a dire life situation. Life is about finding out what that reason, meaning or purpose is and then doing some good with it in the world vs. waiting or whining or whimpering about for the answer to be handed to us. And while my take on God may seem a laughable one to some of my colleagues, given the couple of advanced degrees in theology I hold, it is apparant many of them do not walk their talk because by their fruits you shall know them, right?
God is in each of us, from the doctors who worked feverishly to restore Anthony’s health, to the housekeepers who cleaned his room everyday, to every person who offered a prayer, to this bone weary mother praying without ceasing and crying herself to sleep– He was there and He still is and He always will be because He is in me and all others who believe. Imagine what this world would look like if each person understood, really understood, that they have the capacity to express God, the Most High God, through every waking moment and through every action of their life? How would we all act? Would we be shooting each other? Bombing each other? Fretting over whose taxes get raised? Wondering if Honey Boo Boo gets another season? Keep throwing each other under the bus? Feeling inferior because we don’t have granite countertops and vacation homes? Or would we rise to the level of the Divine capacity within and shine like the sun? Would we wipe away tears, lift a burden; reach out at every opportunity to do good and acts of kindness no matter how small or unseen?
Yes, it was a heart wrenching crappy year for sure, but Anthony is on his way to remission and for that I have no words to express my profound gratitude; my mother’s heart only knows to sing praises that would be held captive if left to mere words for expression. Yes, it was a hard year for which Anthony says he would not change a single thing because it turned him into a better person.
It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.