The world’s filled with cheer,
The fabulous festive holiday season is here.
The laughter, the lights, the love and the joy.
The hopes, magic and dreams of each little girl and young boy.
All around people rejoice and are hopped up on glee.
Everything is amazing, except perhaps not for you, him, her, or me.
I say it every year. I HATE making cookies. However, I’m a sucker for a good cookie exchange (making one type of cookie, albeit a million times, and trading for a delectable variety is true glory), so here I am, yet again griping about making cookies. This year, I opted for the aptly named Grinch cookies. They were especially perfect because I certainly wasn’t feeling very happy, celebratory, or festive at the moment. As parents we must carry on for our kids, but after the news we received the night before, the holiday season was looking pretty bleak.
Is it just me, or does it seem more tragedies happen over the holiday season?
As I was cursing the sticky dough, the burnt bottoms, the flour blizzard spewed all over the entire kitchen, my phone was dinging at rapid fire. For in the middle of the holiday cheer, a friend had received a devastating diagnosis for her young child the night before. (Unspoken prayer request, please!) A group of us started an IM chain at 6:58am. Between batches, I would check in on the messages, and a whole new wave of tears ensued.
This group had rallied together unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Within minutes, we had attempted to cover every possible need our dear friend may have so that she could focus 100% on her children. We had people set up to go to the hospital to sit with her, toiletries stocked, gift bags thoughtfully assembled, cash generously collected, spreadsheets coordinated. The mamas who had experienced PICU stays shared their expertise and gave practical advice on things she would need (socks, dollar bills for vending machines, sleep masks, blankets, comfy clothing, healthy snacks, parking money, reading material, a notebook, fresh air, etc.).
We knew nursing her newborn while she cared for her other child would be a worry, so we had pumps lined up for her to leave at the hospital, in her car, and at home. We had someone baking lactation cookies and sent boxes of Mother’s Milk Tea. We even had mamas donating the last of their frozen stash and pumping specifically to donate to her!
We had people lined up to clean their house when they got home. We compiled a list of volunteers to babysit, care for her pets, and sit in the hospital with her child so she could take a walk. We had people who were available to run any errand she may need and deliver items asap to the hospital. Someone even thought to bring Christmas to them: a tree, a wreath, stockings, and even wrapped gifts to help them find tiny slivers of joy throughout their hospital stay.
Most importantly, we addressed the long term. As far too many of us know, everyone is always there the first few weeks and then they move on with their lives. It’s the weeks and months afterwards where they really need you. We talked about setting up blood drives to save them money down the line, meal trains, financial support for hospital and household bills. Whatever the need, we will be there for her.
Needless to say, in true Grinch fashion, my heart grew far more than three sizes that day.
I had never seen anything like it. The nurses in the PICU at Children’s said they had never seen anything like it either. A group of 30 women who mainly know one another through a common interest FB group, became something utterly indescribable that day. They took their collective experiences, capabilities, and resources to do everything they possibly could. In the face of tragedy, there is huge comfort and hope in seeing people come together to help one another.
Of course none of us feel like what we are doing is enough. Nothing is going to take away the pain and fear our friend is experiencing. However we are going to do our darndest to ensure she knows she is loved, supported, and NEVER EVER alone.
By now we all know that Christmas and LIFE don’t come from a store.
But every day I’m learning that friendship and love mean SO VERY MUCH MORE.
P.S.: Here’s the recipe I used for Grinch cookies (except I ignored the entire part about making candy hearts from scratch and used red hots candies which added a wonderful accent to the flavor).
P.P.S.: Please take a moment to reach out to your friends for whom the holidays will forever be bittersweet and let them know you haven’t forgotten them.