My family has always done Christmas in a big way. We used to sit down and write out a list of things we wanted to do as a family, with others and for others during the Christmas season. As we’ve grown, there’s still things we do as a family, but we each have our own traditions too. My brother has a Christmas party for friends at his house. I go caroling with Legacy Ministries south of downtown. My dad delivers food boxes.
That’s right, my dad is the one who traditionally gets up and packs and delivers food boxes the Saturday before Christmas.
I’m typically snuggled in my bed, trying to regain some of the energy spent on students who are eager for Christmas break. I’m usually not up and around until the afternoon.
This year was different.
This year, I woke up early, ready to do something with my day. So my dad suggested I come with him.
I arrived, greeted friends, packed boxes with green beans, cranberries, jell-o and stuffing. My dad grabbed the maps and we set off to deliver two boxes.
The first one was delivered to a woman diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy. She smiled, hugged me, said “Thank You” and we left.
The second house was harder to find. So when we arrived, we decided to verify that this was the right house before we brought the food in.
We were invited in and this little lady grabbed my hand, and the first thing she said to me was, “My daughter died last night.”
I froze. She eased herself back onto the couch, still holding my hand.
“I’m so sorry.” What else do you say in a moment like that?
“She had a brain tumor. She was down in Texas, and she died last night.”
I had been ready for another lady like the last one; quick smile, quick story, quick “Thank You.” I wasn’t ready for this. She shared with me that her daughter had two daughters of her own. I could only sit and listen. I extended the Bible the church had given me to offer and she took it with reverently trembling hands. The same hands eased it open to a bookmark placed by the church, marking a devotion on peace. She smiled and said, “That’s what I need.”
I could tell this conversation was far from over, so I just sat and listened.
She told me about her oldest son who had died several years ago in December, then the story of losing her husband on that son’s birthday (also in December) a few years later. My dad set the food box down on the kitchen table and walked back into the room. We all reached out our hands together and prayed. The Lord led me to pray for peace and joy in the midst of her grief.
As we were getting ready to leave she was listing the people she had lost. She shared about how most of her siblings were gone, her son, her husband and now, Catherine.
My hands stilled and I paused in the middle of standing up from my spot.
“Was Catherine your daughter’s name?” I asked.
She said that it was.
“That’s my name too.”
It was God who got me out of bed this morning. It was God who ordained that I would go pack food boxes for the first time this year, and God who sent me right where I needed to be.
To a woman grieving the loss of her very own Catherine.