This is chapter thirteen of a story entitled The Other One. It’s getting close to the end. To start at the beginning, click here.
For once this Christmas season, we had a day of complete relaxation. A day of nothing to do and no places to be. Bryce was healthy and recovering and would probably be discharged earlier than planned. I guess he had much of a fighting spirit than we thought. Alex and Rachel were watching him closely, without worry, and the rest of us were able to just spend a lazy day at home.
Everyone except for my mother, though, who decided that our Christmas family dinner would have to happen tonight. She had practically barricaded the kitchen, making sure she could work on her masterpieces without disturbance. It wasn’t so much that we didn’t want to help her, but rather that we had all realized we were useless in the kitchen. We were a much bigger help to her if we stayed far, far away.
So for once, we were able to breathe easily. Ashley and I were able to watch the holiday specials we had missed because of the chaos that hit us so quickly. I was able to give Dad a hand with a couple of simple chores that didn’t require assistance so much as it required an extra pair of hands for him to boss around. Jenn was even able to stop by for a little bit to visit, which of course promptly some very awkward prodding from Mom and Ashley afterwards.
Everything was wonderful. Everything felt natural. The only problem is that it was going to suddenly be difficult to board that airplane tomorrow.
The smell of the food set on the dinner table would have caused Gandhi to rethink his stance on eating. In particular, after all that had happened recently, just the idea of sitting down and eating a home cooked meal of any kind seemed like heaven on earth. We all of course knew that since my mother had been in charge of this meal, it would, in fact, be the closest we would be to heaven on this side of life.
As we gathered in the dining room, stories from childhood and comments on the recent football games started to fly. Life was finally running smoothly for us, and we knew this dinner together would be one to treasure.
We also all knew that the prayer before the family meal was the one thing my father had been looking forward to since last Christmas. We wanted to make sure to appease the old man of the house, so we slowly cut the chatter down as we found our places at the dinner table.
Without having to say a word, we went silent, grabbed the hands of those next to us, and my father began to speak.
“Our God, from whom all blessings flow, all of us come before you now with much on our minds. Lord, it would be easy for us to despair and complain about the fact that this holiday season has not gone the way we thought it should have. It would be easy for us to complain. But today, Lord, we cannot do that. Today, we must be thankful.
“You have blessed us tremendously, even when we can not see it. When we could not see your guiding hand during this time of uncertainty with our dear baby Bryce, you still graced us with much more than we deserved. We were guided through the darkness and brought safely to the other side. Days ago, we thought we would lose a loved one. Now, with surgery behind us an only checkups and careful monitoring ahead, things are stable again. We are thankful for Bryce’s health.
“And not only his health, but the health of my wife. Though the news of cancer coming back was terrifying and worrying, we knew that you had given us the strength to continue on. We are thankful for good reports.
“Lord, we are able to gather here tonight together, as a family, and not a single one of us is missing. Alex and Rachel can join us, knowing that their son is recovering. They do not need to live in worry, but rather know that they can rely on bright optimism. We are thankful for hope.
“We don’t know why the things that have happened recently have happened, but we know that ultimately, these difficulties are not permanent. Though things may be dark and difficult again, it is not something we will always be stuck with. Instead, we will be guided through them in time. That timing is not our own, and is appreciated when blessed with patience beyond our understanding. We are thankful for guidance.
“You have saved us. You have redeemed us to yourself, though we have done nothing to deserve it. We are forgiven, though we constantly fail. We are thankful for grace.
“And Lord, you not only have taken care of our eternal matters, but you have blessed us with more than we need to survive on this earth. You have given us each other. When times are at their darkest, we always have each other. We are thankful for provision.
“Thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for bringing Aaron to us this Christmas. Thank you for keeping Bryce with us. Thank you, Lord, for the gift. We are very thankful for our family.”
We looked up, but every one of us help onto the hands of those around us for just a second longer. It was like we were trying to effectively communicate to whoever was beside us that we were there for them, they were okay, and we weren’t going anywhere. We had to make sure every single person there understood that in this family is where they belonged. It was where they were needed.
Every eye was soaked, and every heart was full.