I’ve spent my evening reading through some of my old files. I have come across a lot of poetry, some wonderful stories that I think I really should finish writing, and even a few completed short stories. One of those completed stories is a Christmas story. I wrote it in high school, in the year or so following Mom’s car accident. As with everything I write, there is something of me in it. Reading it touched a chord and I shed some tears, but ultimately came away encouraged anew. It’s not quite as polished as what I try to write these days. Perhaps someday I’ll find the time to smooth out some of the rough edges a bit, but for now, I’ll leave it as it is. I decided that it might make an appropriate blog post for the Christmas season. I hope that you enjoy my tale…
Christmas Eve, and where was I spending it? In the on-call room at Northern Emergency Services (NES), just waiting. I worked a lot of holidays, especially Christmas. Oh, I had a father and brother whom I could spend the holidays with. Truth is, I hadn’t been home for years. Dad and I had never really been close, but things had gotten worse after Mom had died. My brother, Larry, had tried to get me to visit Dad, but I wouldn’t listen. So, I spent most Christmases working.
I should probably introduce myself before you get too confused. My name is Jenna Parker. I’m a licensed paramedic, and I’ve worked at NES for five years.
It had been a quiet night, so far. There were two EMTs working that night in addition to myself. Sam Kingston, the resident comedian, and Jack Sherman were both on hand. Jack’s wife had died of cancer not quite three years ago. Unlike me, Jack had no family. His parents had died when he was young, and he had no siblings or children. He spent the holidays alone because he had to.
I was becoming uneasy at the direction my thoughts were taking, so I decided to find out what Jack and Sam were up to. I found them in the kitchen getting some coffee.
“Who made this batch?” I asked as I poured myself a cup.
“Sam is the culprit this time,” Jack replied.
“Is it drinkable?” I joked.
“Of course,” Sam answered laughingly.
The three of us talked for several minutes until the phone rang.
“I got it,” Sam said as he rushed to answer the phone.
“I sure hope it’s just someone calling to wish us a Merry Christmas,” Jack remarked grimly.
“You and me both,” I said quietly.
Neither of us said anything else as we waited for Sam come back and tell us what the call was about. We didn’t have long to wait. Sam ran back in and explained.
“We’ve got an accident on route 3, just before the inn, one injury.”
“Jack and I have this one you cover the office,” I said as we rushed out to the garage.
“Right,” Sam replied.
“I’ll drive,” Jack told me just before we got in the ambulance.
We were both pretty quiet on the way to the accident scene. Any car accident is terrible, but on Christmas Eve…
When we got to the scene there were several local firefighters and one police car. Apparently, everyone in the first car was fine. The only person who had been hurt was the driver of the second car, a woman.
How she could have possibly survived the accident is beyond me. I had never seen anyone get out of an accident that bad alive. Even then, I didn’t think it was very likely that this woman would make it.
It took a few minutes for the firefighters to finish freeing her from the wreck. When they finally did we went right to work. We got her into the ambulance and started for the nearest hospital. I tried to stabilize her, but her blood pressure had dropped drastically.
“Step on it Jack, I’m pretty sure she has some bad internal injuries. Her pressure is dangerously low.”
Officer Kevin Marks watched the ambulance drive away.
Please God, let Beth make it. Please don’t let her die, he prayed.
Then he called his friend, Ed Anderson, Beth’s husband.
When Jack pulled into the hospital driveway I was relieved, but also a bit depressed. This woman, Beth, was in very serious condition. I didn’t really see much hope for her, but I kept telling myself that she would not die. I don’t know if I believed it or not.
We got Beth into the hospital quickly and turned her over to the doctors’ care. I saw a man with two teenage girls waiting in the hallway.
As Beth was wheeled by one of them called out, “Mom?”
In that moment I saw myself twelve years ago as a seventeen-year-old waiting in a hallway like this one…
I leaned over as far as possible trying to see Mom. I still couldn’t believe she had been in a car accident. Someone had told us that they were taking her into surgery. I watched as they rushed Mom into the operating room. When the doors closed behind Mom I asked God to save her for the hundredth time since I had found out about the accident.
“I really don’t know if we can do anything for her Mr. Parker. Her injuries are extensive, but we will do everything we can,” the doctor told my dad.
Even then, I refused to believe that she could die. We waited for an hour and a half before we heard anything. Then, the doctor came out to the waiting room. Dad, Larry, and I stood anxiously, waiting.
The doctor hesitated before saying, “Mr. Parker, I’m very sorry. The internal injuries were very severe. Maybe, if we had gotten to her sooner… I’m sorry, there was just nothing more we could do. I’m afraid your wife died in the OR.”
I didn’t hear anything else that anyone said after that. My mother was gone, and nothing would ever be right again. How could it be?
The months that followed my mother’s death were very difficult for all three of us. I did my best to try and keep everything together, especially myself. I couldn’t let anyone know how much I was hurting; I didn’t want to. So, I hid behind walls of cold detachment and kept myself busy so I couldn’t think about how I felt. I didn’t want to face life without Mom. However, that couldn’t last forever.
Five months after she died I began to feel very depressed and angry. I was mad at Dad because he was so wrapped up in his own grief that he didn’t notice that I needed help. I was really angry with God because I blamed Him for Mom’s death. After all, He could have prevented the whole thing. So why didn’t He! That’s when I stopped talking to God and my dad. I didn’t think either one noticed. I didn’t think either one cared.
Since then I had learned to bury myself in my work and pretend that there was nothing wrong. Most of the time it worked. Still, every now and then I would remember. Then all the feelings would surface again before I could stop them. All the pain and grief inside would almost overwhelm me. Fortunately, I had become very good at burying my feelings.
I watched that teenage girl standing in the hallway, and she didn’t cry. She looked fine, unless you really looked at her eyes. You could see the storm going on inside of her. It was like looking at myself, and for the first time in many years, I prayed.
God, I know that we aren’t exactly on great terms now, but this family really needs You. Help Beth, You let her survive that accident, please, save her life. Help her husband and kids right now; don’t let them feel alone like I did.
“You ready Jenna?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, I’m ready.”
Sam met us at the door when we got back and asked, “What happened?”
Jack glanced at me and then answered, “It was a really bad one. There was only one person injured, but I don’t think her chances are very good.”
At that point I hurried into the kitchen and tried to pretend I was making coffee. A minute or two later Jack walked in.
“Do you want to talk about it, Jenna?” he asked.
“About what?” I asked.
“About why you just ran in here and hid.”
“I’m not hiding!”
He walked over to the table and sat down before replying calmly, “Yes, you are. You’ve been hiding ever since your mother died. I think this just brought the whole thing back along with all the hurt and feelings you buried twelve years ago.”
“You have no clue what you are talking about Jack.”
He was quiet for a moment, then replied, “Jenna, I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about very deeply. Believe me, I know. But you can’t hold onto it forever, because it will kill you inside. You have to let go of the past and deal with all the hurt and bitterness inside of you.”
I whirled around and faced him long enough to yell, “Deal with it? My mother died. I lost her! How am I supposed to get over that?!”
“You don’t get over it, but you can get past it. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even what we consider a tragedy. I know it doesn’t make sense, and I know that it hurts, but that’s when you have to trust God…”
“No!” I interrupted, “He let my mom die. He could have stopped the whole thing, but He didn’t! How am I supposed to trust Him after He ruined my life?”
“Did He really ruin it?” Jack asked quietly. “Jenna, all our struggles, all the painful things that happen to us are what make us grow and mature. That’s what shapes our character and makes us who we are.”
“Or, shatters your life,” I said bitterly as I sank into a chair.
“I can’t possibly understand why God does most of the things He does. But, I do know that He loves me and that He can give me the strength for just one more day. I think you know that too.”
“I know,” I whispered.
“There are days when I feel like the sky is falling on me. I guess those are the days that I have to depend on God the most. It’s not easy to deal with the pain, and it does take time for your heart to heal. God told Paul that His grace was enough, and it is. He can help you, and He will, always.”
“Jack, I’ve hardly said a word to God in the past twelve years. How could He forgive me after all this time?” I asked feeling the walls I’d built crumbling.
Patiently and gently, he explained, “That’s what Christmas is really about. It’s about the miracle that God loves us enough to have sent His Son to us, for us. He did that so we could be forgiven. Psalm 130:3&4 says, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” Whatever you have done, wherever you have been, God still loves you and will always forgive you.”
“You really believe that?”
“With all my heart.”
“There was a time I did too. Now, I don’t know what to believe.”
“Believe what is true, Jenna.”
“What is true?”
Jack thought for a moment and then he answered, “Maybe other people forgot about you, but God never did. He loves you more than anyone else ever could. He wants you to be close to Him and to let Him help you. That’s the truth, and that’s the only way you ever will get through this, with His help. I personally know this to be true. It’s the only reason I’ve made it this far. I couldn’t have done it alone, no one can.”
I could feel the tears pricking the back of my eyes, and for once, I didn’t try to stop them. Yes, I knew it was all true. I also knew that I had to take the next step, I had to ask for forgiveness. The choice was mine, I could get better or I could be bitter.
“Jack, I think I need to be alone for a while. I’ve got some praying to do.”
“O.K. I’ll be right out here,” he said before he left the room.
Oh Father, please mend her heart, Jack prayed. In fact, he prayed for a long time. He prayed that Jenna would find the strength and peace that he had come to depend on.
I cried and prayed for what seemed like ages. I felt drained, but lighter. Something very heavy had been lifted, something that I had carried for too long. Now, after twelve years, my heart could finally start to heal. I could start to live again.
When I got home the next morning I noticed the phone sitting on my desk. Oh God, I don’t think I can do this. Still, I knew I had to call. So, I found my address book and looked up a number that I had not dialed for far too long.
I waited while the phone rang and when it was answered I said, “Hi Dad. It’s me, Jenna. I was wondering if maybe I could come home for a few days.”
Oh, and about Beth Anderson, she did pull through. That’s one Christmas miracle that she and her family will never forget. It’s one I’ll never forget either.
That Christmas Eve I found out that Christmas is truly about miracles. I found out that God’s love is one constant in a world that changes every day. I found out that broken relationships can be put back together. And I found out that any heart can be renewed, even mine, if it is only willing.
“…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
Hebrews 13:5b NIV