After unloading a host of trees created by hundreds of individuals, we waited on the Social workers to get a bit organized on who would be the first to receive one of Samuel’s Trees. We knew the power of these trees first hand; Kelly and I had received one during our own stay at Children’s Hospital LA only five years before. But as we have always been each Christmas season following our son’s death, we felt a real sense of nervousness. How would they react to a tree this time? You see, when you have a baby holding on for life, not knowing if they are going to survive, but not believing they will die for want of sheer will, your entire insides are on fire.
Hope seems to ebb and flow on each new test or blood result.
Inside the room of every child is a holy place to the parent, and entering into that place of vulnerability is something we know too well and take none too lightly. And so we waited patiently. If I had nails, they would have been chewed off.
I remember looking at Kelly with a sense of wonder and excitement, mixed with an agony for those experiencing what we had. Knowing each minute with the baby was precious beyond words. What would it seem like if we were to barge in? A random set of people holding a Christmas tree of all things.
The Social worker waved to us from outside the room we were staying in, and we followed with tree in hand. Walking a precarious few steps down a hallway, we made a series of turns and ended near a room. She gently knocked on the door and as it crept open, two estranged and haggard sets of eyes met ours. We knew this was a sacred moment; we knew intimately their struggle for inside was a baby with the same condition as Samuel’s; the rare defect forever in our mind called CDH.
I do not think the couple experiencing such heartache said hello. Their primary language was Spanish, and as the Social worker interpreted for us, we felt a loss for words. We wanted to reach out and just hug them. We wanted to weep with them. We wanted to tell them it was all going to be okay. We wanted to tell them they were not alone. Instead, we showed them.
A few words were exchanged in Spanish and we shared with them our desire to bless them with a small Christmas tree. It seemed trite at first, but we continued. We told them this tree was not from us, but from hundreds of strangers who loved them and prayed for them.
I could almost see the wheels in their minds working and begging the question, “What’s the catch?” But there was none. And so I gently gave the tree filled with hundreds of dollars of gifts cards to the man who was much shorter than me. As I let go of the tree, and as he looked at it, he turned around and spoke to the mother of the child. As he walked back in the room, we remembered how the Social worker had said they had no money, and were given food by the hospital staff at times. She had gingerly told us before that they had no visitors their entire time there.
Then the mother came out. Her face had a smile on it that had probably not been there for many days, and she began to profusely thank us. Again, we tried telling her that we were messengers from others, and began to tell her about our own story with Samuel. She listened. She cried. I cried. Kelly cried. Even the Social worker began to tear up. The man came out of the room again, and as the two of them stood there taking in all that the tree would now provide provisionally, I asked them if I could pray for them. We embraced and such a warmth-filled hug from complete strangers holding each other created a very holy moment.
No, I was not able to tell them they were not alone, but they felt it. I was not able to tell them that everything was going to be okay, but for that moment, and every time they looked at that tree, they knew, as we did, that hope prevails even in the worst of times. We didn’t just tell them we loved them; it was manifested in a tangible expression they would take with them wherever they went. We know. Others care. And no, you are not alone.