Recently I have had two friends (hi Leah and Shannon!) write eloquently on finding “joy in the waiting”: one focusing on loss, and the other on the Advent Season. Both had deeply sincere sentiments, and both an equally profound faith in God.
These past weeks in the hospital with Walter have truly challenged me to find this joy – because many times it hides in places we forget to look. In all reality, this has been a challenge since the beginning of our journey with Wally. First it was waiting to choose a name, then diagnose his defects, for him to be born, have surgery scheduled, and so on. Our trip to LA Children’s these past weeks, wittingly dubbed our “unexpected journey”, has given me time to reflect on these waitings and the waitings to come.
As Walter grows better and better, staying in the hospital grows ever more difficult. We’re now at the beginning of week three, and surprisingly, those first two passed extremely quickly – especially since his stay was of a clear and immediate necessity.
Now, however, we are both anxious to go home, and Walter’s heart with his new shunt is behaving as planned. The longer we wait here (now working on upping “food” intake, as he couldn’t eat for 10 days), the more I think about waiting for Walter to come out of his next surgery (in under a year), waiting for Christmas to come and go, and waiting for Dan to leave in January for 3.5 months of training.
I want so badly to find “joy in the waiting” and I wish I could say the holidays are just as grand with our little family from a hospital room as they would be from our home…but they aren’t. With Dan back at work, our little family isn’t together, and with every day Wally is losing time with his dad before he leaves in January. Advent traditions of special sites, yearly visits, Christmas cookies, carols, ornaments, movies, and stories, all bolster an atmosphere that I look forward to year after year. Having not been home for the past 2.5 weeks, no halls have been decked, or tree decorated. Our first family Christmas picture was taken from our hospital room. We’ve blinked and missed our first Thanksgiving as a family in our first real home, and soon we’ll be edging on Christmas without even leaving the hospital. I can’t help but feel as though we’ve missed an opportunity. Though the days feel long, time seems quite fleeting.
It guilts me admitting it, but some days I’m envious seeing carefree smiling babies, large families in front of a Christmas tree, and pumpkin pies delicately arranged in front of ravenous looking children. I hate sitting here, Walter wanting to eat, with a big scar down his chest, and knowing that in 10 months time we will be going through this all over again. I hate thinking about taking Wally, yet again, to the operating room and hearing a neighboring doctor talk to a 17 year old next to us for outpatient surgery on her toe. I hate knowing that Walter will cry and suffer because of something I cannot fix or make right. I hate knowing that doctors will have to stop his heart in order to save it. And I hate handing off my 8.5lb, 7 week old baby boy to an anesthesia and surgical team, after rocking him in my arms and wondering if I will get to see that same sweet smile again when he wakes in a few days.
But I don’t hate babies, families, Christmas trees, or pumpkin pie. In fact, I love them. They are the very things that show me how much joy and love with which mankind has been graced. For these are the little joys our own family shares in the best and worst of times. Because even though this may not have been how I would have planned our Advent Season – it is our advent season for now and we are making plenty of unexpected, yet precious, memories of our own. I know next year I will miss the little squirmy baby who I’ve had the joy of holding throughout these long days. Next Christmas I’ll realize how much he’s grown, missing the return of his freshly minted smile he does so well (even after being poked and prodded when I hold him after his morning labs).
I find myself looking, as any good Hillsdale grad should, to “rejoice in the challenge.” In all things: good and ill, the sentiment holds. So as we wait for Advent this year, I anticipate not only the birth of our Savior, pray for His coming, and ask for His forgiveness; but plan to find the little joys in each waiting day, knowing that, as King Solomon reminds us, “this, too, shall pass.”