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The Truth about Christmas

In the last two posts, I shared my Christmas traditions in Jamaica and in the BVI and how I combined both traditions on the first Christmas I spent in the BVI, in 2001, and was blessed. Over the years, I continued to celebrate Christmas by shopping and cooking special Christmas dishes. Of course I also celebrated Christmas by attending church services, but my focus was on the material aspect of Christmas.

During the Christmas holidays, there are lots of bright lights and lively music, and shops are opened very late to entice you with their goods. The temptation to buy is overwhelming during this time of the year. It takes a very strong-willed person not to get caught up in the excitement of it all. I was not that person then.

However, my outlook on Christmas all changed in 2008. This was the year that I experienced my most trying times in the BVI. My mother died in July, my son had open heart surgery in October, and my sister died in December.

My son spent three months in the Cardio Vascular Center of Puerto Rico after his surgery. The recovery period was very long and painful. My son was battling for his life while I cared, prayed and fasted for him.

The month of December silently arrived, and my son was still in the hospital. The Puerto Ricans prepared for the season with the usual Christmas decorations and sales, but I did not notice them. The hospital also decorated the foyer and the patients’ rooms with Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, flowers and tinsels.

The Christmas carols played softly in the background of all the beeps and alarms of the lifesaving machines. I barely noticed the preparations because I was not in the mood for Christmas with all its traditional adornments. Christmas seemed far away because my son was still battling for his life.

Even though he was able to walk around and was in good spirit, he still had in a chest tube that was draining liquid from one of his lungs that stubbornly refused to dry up. Every morning when my son awoke he looked at the bottle by his side to see if more liquid accumulated in it during the night. It usually did, and he would silently cry as he watched the straw colored liquid inside the tube flowed slowly from his chest and into the bottle. When would this end? My heart ached.

Underwater seal bottle. Image courtesy of medicine on

Underwater seal bottle. Image courtesy of medicine on

More liquid in the bottle meant that he was not leaving the hospital. I tried to cheer him up as best as I could but during the nights when I retired to my hotel room I would fall apart. I would lay prostrated on the floor and just screamed. “When will it end?” I cried over and over to the Lord. The end seemed so far away.

Christmas shopping, the parties, the food, the excitement meant nothing to me. Where was the Christmas love or comfort? I was alone in a country that spoke a different language from mine. I had no friends or even acquaintances to invite me to church or their home for dinner.

To compound my distress, my sister died in December, and I could not attend the funeral. I was unable to grieve her death because my heart was grieving for the life of my son. The pain was overbearing, and I had no one with me to share my burden, but I recognized that I had the Lord because He promised never to leave or forsake me, so my sanity remained intact.

God bless the nurses in the Pediatric ICU unit who looked after my son. They all fell in love with him and even though they did not speak English they communicated with him in the universal language of love.

Almost every day one of the nurses brought him a toy, socks, books or DVDs or toiletries. Every morning at eight am, when I arrived at his bedside, there would be something new that he received. When I asked him who gave it to him, he could not say because most times they only placed it in his overnight bag or the night table. I showed my gratitude with a smile.

Eventually, God dried up that stubborn lung, and my son was finally discharged from the hospital two days before Christmas. When I arrived home, I met a happy and relieved father but I also met a lonesome daughter and a messy house, so I had more important things to do than Christmas traditions.

There were many church brethren, acquaintances, friends and well-wishers who were happy to see my son back home in good health. One of the focal points of our homecoming was that a group of my coworkers got together and collected donations for my son.

They presented this gift to me during the week when I returned to work. It was a very emotional moment for me because I came face to face with the real meaning of Christmas. It was not about receiving; it was about giving. It is identifying someone in need and give to them without expecting anything in return.

Since then I no longer celebrate Christmas in any traditions neither Jamaica nor the BVI. I do not shop, and I do not decorate. I only give one useful gift to each child. I no longer overload them with toys or trivial stuff.

I reminded my children that while some people are shopping and partying during Christmas season there are people who are in pain battling for their lives in the hospital. Their relatives and families are in distress hoping for their recovery while some are mourning for loved ones who had passed away.

Therefore, during your celebration always remember to be sober and pray for patients who are in the hospital and their loved ones. Always give to those who are in need.

Do not forget to share with us your thoughts.

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