Christmas in Texas: He is Here
"We have lived the more true part of Christmas: Christ made flesh here and now, God with us through the flesh of our friends.”
To my family, and especially to me, it seemed like Christmas never arrived this year.
Giulia and our four kids all came down with a bad flu on December 22. On Christmas night, I finished preparing all the gifts under the tree, and I was eager to wake up the following morning to see the kids open them with joy. But at 2 a.m., we woke up hearing 11-month-old Teresa crying mildly in the room next to ours. Giulia was still sick. “In ten minutes I’ll go pick her up. I’m waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in,” she told me.
I am usually happy to let her take care of the kids during the night, but this time something inside me made me get up and go to Teresa. As soon as I saw her, I ran to Giulia: “We have to bring her to the hospital immediately!” She was making a very strange barking noise, and I realized she could barely breathe.
We immediately call Jen, one of our dearest friends in the CL community here, and, thank God, she had her phone on because her husband J, an EMS paramedic, was on duty that night. I took Teresa and drove to Jen’s house, leaving Giulia at home praying the Rosary. Jen jumped into the backseat next to Teresa, and we drove to the children’s hospital. I was trying to listen to Teresa’s breathing and drive as fast as I could. I kept praying to Mary to let us arrive in time. “Andrea, you have to hurry up, my friend,” Jen said at one point. “She needs immediate attention!”
We reached the hospital, and rushed Teresa into the emergency room. The nurse saw her, pushed a button, and ten people were immediately with her, pushing 100-percent oxygen into her nose that at that point I noticed had turned a black-green color. I remember lots of doctors and nurses asking me questions. Once Teresa's oxygen level went back to normal, we were moved to another room. Teresa became quiet, breathing through the nose tubes they gave her.
I kept thinking back to the moment we woke up and Teresa’s eyes, looking at me and begging for life. I thought we got her just in time, and I attributed the miracle to Saint Joseph, who woke me up and got me up from sleep, and to Mary, who helped us get to the hospital. The next morning, we were transferred to the floor because Teresa was breathing better. As I thought of the kids waking up and finding the gifts I prepared under the tree, I knew that Saint Joseph had given me a share in his role, that I had served my family in a dramatic situation and from a hidden place as he serves Mary and baby Jesus in the Gospels, always silent and seemingly “marginal.”
Jen stayed with me all night. She was there praying, texting my wife to keep her updated, and helping me. Around lunchtime, J came to pick Jen up so they could go home and celebrate Christmas with two other CL friends. He brought with him a priest, who gave us the Eucharist. The priest blessed us and said, “Today we celebrate Christmas, and Jesus is truly here with us in the Eucharist.” I immediately looked at Jen and J standing next to him, and I knew: You, Jesus, are truly here through the flesh and care of these friends. Later, when I told this to Giulia, she said, “You know, Andrea, I thought a similar thing. This Christmas we have lost the most sentimental part of it, the joy of family celebrations, opening the gifts, a big dinner together with friends, but we have lived the more true part of Christmas: Christ made flesh here and now, God with us through the flesh of our friends.”
After a few back-and-forths from the ICU, Teresa was discharged on December 31, after six long days and nights at the hospital. Now we are home. Teresa is recovering well and has recovered her joy and strength, (but not her voice. . . which is not so bad). And tonight, January 3, we will have all our friends here to finally celebrate Christmas together. I await this evening with deep joy. He is here with us once again with faces we have not chosen, but who are clearly given to sustain and guide our life. I'm deeply grateful for the Movement, and our donation for the Christmas appeal is filled with an even greater gratitude.
Andrea, Austin, Texas