One of my favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed, it used to be one of regular go to films over the Christmas period, though I admit I’ve not watched it for a couple of years. In it George Bailey (James Stewart) contemplates and attempts suicide only to be rescued by and angel (called Clarence) and friends and family who all rally around him and his family in his time of need. It’s a wonderful, if slightly sentimental, film about thwarted plans and dreams, of second chances and of love and hope.
Well …. this year our Christmas, whilst maybe not quite as dramatic as George Baileys, did NOT go according to plan!
In fact at times it felt like the “worst Christmas ever” – let me tell you about it. First, Angela (my wife) was really ill, she’d not felt well for a few weeks but Christmas morning she started vomitting (I know it’s gross but it needed to be said) in fact it was nearly worse as she was almost sick over the unwrapped presents, and almost fainted into the Christmas tree in the main room. Her being ill was bad enough but then trying to deal with one young adult with ASD and learning disabilities, and an eight year old foster child with emotional and behavioural issues kind of compouned it. Too much stress leads to to many raised voices, and ineviable fall outs. By the end of the day Angela was so poorly that we’d contacted the ambulance and been sent off to the emergency doctors to get treatment.
Meanwhile, we tried to return to a degree of Christmas organisation with my announcement that contrary to tradition (and against the vote of no confidence in my ability) I would cook the Christmas dinner. But these things were not meant to be, just as I started to prepare the roast potatoes I realised – the electric cooker was not working! Surely just a fuse I hoped, but no it wasn’t – whatever it was has put the cooker out of action for the day (and in fact into the new year). So I popped some soup in the microwave to make sure hungry mouths were fed whilst I regethered my thoughts.
This is the point were disaster becomes blessing ……
I went to our neighbour, and begged if she might rescue our Christmas by letting us use her oven to cook. Of course was the answer, come back at two and it’ll be already – and it was. Later in the evening when we had to drive out to see the emergency doctor another neighbour looked after the youngest child so we could have a hassle free consultation. On Boxing Day, with Angela still in bed, still sick and me still reeling; another neighbour took the eight year old out for the day with her own daughter allowing me space to care for Angela. At the same time another neighbour, hearing she was ill, turned up with a bunch of red roses and to wish her a speedy recovery. As I reflected upon such genuine neighbourly love and care, I also thought about how fortunate we are in UK to still have a NHS that is free and available 24-7 every day of the year, and that it is staffed by dedicated people who offer that care and support as needed.
As time goes by, and as Angelas recovery becomes more complete – I’m afforded the luxury of thinking still further about the whole experience:
Was the Christmas we’d planned?
Would I want to repeat it?
Would I do things differently, not get quite as stressed?
Yes I hope so
But in the end, this Christmas has reminded me of the truth behind the Christmas message – the truth that is love, grace and hope – it’s a wonderful life.