Finding the incredible in the awful on Christmas Day

Around 11:30 am, just as we were picking up my dad for our Christmas Day tradition of Dim Sum, I got a call. My aunt was going to the ER. We dropped my Dad back at his hotel and headed down to the hospital.

My son and husband parked in the lobby with an ipad and huge lego build. I met my aunt’s former neighbor in the ER. My aunt had called her the night before, and she called me on their way there.

On Sunday evening, my aunt called me. We haven’t talked much in recent years, and late night phone calls were rare. When my mom was alive, late night phone calls went to her and usually involved a DUI or some other event that required a visit to the precinct. I hadn’t expected her to tell me she had some kind of cancer, and it seemed to be in her spine and brain.

We talked, and I called a good friend who is an oncologist, and then I called my aunt the next day. She was scared, but she was seeing an oncologist on Tuesday and hoped they could help. I didn’t call on Tuesday.

I met my aunt’s former neighbor. We had never talked before today. Her aunt used to live next to my aunt, and they got to know each other over the years, and my aunt called her on Christmas eve because she was scared. She came over and spent the night. By Christmas morning, it was clear she was really sick, so she called for help and took her to the hospital. We talked for over an hour about my aunt, families, caring for relatives, and the surprises life brings. She is a phenomenal person.

Tonight, my aunt is in the ICU. I don’t know what the future will bring. Everyone is tired.

The strange thing is there were incredibly beautiful moments today. My son was incredible. My husband was wonderful. The two of them spent many hours finding entertainment in an empty lobby. In between tests, I spent a good part of the afternoon talking to my aunt. We hadn’t talked in a long time, and she hasn’t always been sure of me in recent years, but today, she wanted me to hold her hand, and she asked me to explain what was going on. I was so grateful to be useful.

My mom died in 2008. My aunt, her sister, reminded me more of her today than she ever has before. They were always very different people, but today, I saw the similarities. She’s tough like my mom, and she doesn’t suffer anything from anyone. She can be incredibly kind and generous. She laughs like my mom.

I called a relative I haven’t seen in at least 20, probably 30, years. She, too, was incredibly kind. Nothing like a call about a medical crisis to upend someone’s Christmas, but she talked, and in the middle of things, it was good to talk with her.

It’s been a day of surprises. I’m so grateful for the people whose paths I crossed today– my aunt’s former neighbor, my relative, and my aunt. I wish all of it was under very different circumstances, but I got to spend Christmas with some really special people.

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