On the Incarnation and Hospital Rooms.

by Meredith Day

I never thought I’d learn about the goodness of the living Christ-child, through the death of a young boy.

One week this summer while serving as a Children’s Hospital chaplain, I spent many hours with a family who was beginning to recognize that their 11 year-old-son, Michael, was going to die soon. Chemo wasn’t working and there weren’t any options other than to sit in a cold room full of tears and prayers and anger and snot.

It was one of the most palpable images of grief I had ever witnessed.

I came in the next day expecting to start the whole thing over again with Michael’s family, but I was honestly exhausted. My veins stopped frozen when I walked into my office to learn that Michael had died three hours earlier.  At the hospital where I was working, families and friends didn’t stick around too long after a death. They were usually ushered fairly quickly to one of those fluorescently lit consolation cells where they could begin to make “arrangements”—a word I quickly learned was as lethal as death itself. I didn’t think anyone would still be there, but I suddenly felt like I should go and see. 

I can still remember the way my feet tingled as my oxfords trudged across the blue and violet tiles and into the elevator. The mosaic fish swimming along an imaginary river that I wished I could jump into and escape. Two. Three. Four. Five. The PICU was on five and as I walked down the hall, I felt a density that I wasn’t expecting. I turned the corner and instead of a vacant room, I saw Michael’s mother’s blonde locks through the sterile glass door. I tried to prepare myself to do some legitimate "pastoring," but with one step more I stood shell-shocked. Michael’s body had not yet been moved and because of paperwork, his corpse was still lying there in the bed. Visible and exposed. His mother sitting by herself next to him so his body wouldn’t be alone. Though I didn’t want to move, something pulled me through the doorway. “I’m so sorry,” I said, as I stared at his gray protruding belly peeking through his Spiderman pajamas. I wanted to blurt out like Mary did that time to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

I sat beside Michael’s mother and Michael’s body for the better part of the next hour in silence. There wasn’t much to say, was there? And yet, for some unclear reason, I was in the room. In the split second moment where I could have left the scene and no one would have known, I didn’t. There was something that wouldn’t let me turn away. What was it? It seems to me it was something like a calling. A calling towards the incarnational Christ— towards the recognition of God’s movement on earth.

In this moment of Christmas, in this season of Advent, calling becomes something more than a word us religious folks like to throw around in hopes of getting a job or a title or a collar one day. Instead, it becomes a gravitational force that beckons us to wade into the absolute muck and trust that Christ is standing beside us in it. This, my friends, is the incarnation. This is Christ coming to earth.

Tonight, after the gift-opening and the nephew-loving and the traditional-tamale-eating, I will light a candle for Michael. I will remember the death of a boy I hardly knew, but whose family showed me a glimpse of Christmas in July.

Our calling is rooted in a willingness to lean into the brokenness and chaos, and listen to the murmurs of resurrection and light. To be called is to have the courage to sit and marvel at the magnificent heaps of dry bones on this earth, knowing full well that the story isn’t over yet. That one day, bones that are dry will be enfleshed back to life. That one day, 11 year old boys who die of cancer, will be called out by name from their tombs. That one day, you and I will not see dimly but fully, the glory of a God who journeys to earth yesterday, today, and always. 

A Letter to My Best Friend a Week After Her Wedding Day.

by Meredith Day

Dear best friend,

Well... it's been one week. Do you feel different?

Because I do.

A week ago I saw you make the best decision of your life---just seven days ago. Just 168 hours. It might as well have been a lifetime.

I had been tearing up all morning. In the midst of all the chaos, every few minutes my mind would settle and I would realize just what was happening. I stood next to you in that white dress when you grabbed my shoulder blade and whispered, "Love you." I always lose it first, but I blame you for causing that one.

I'll never forget the moment right before we all walked down that long, red-brick aisle. I think I was more nervous than you were. Right before I made those synchronized steps, I looked back expecting to catch your eye. The sun was shining behind that little house and the rays spewed out above your twisted hair. You were glancing down at your new blue-eyed brother with a giant smile. And I realized that I'd never seen you more at peace. You were sure. You'd been sure for a long, long time.

My mind slipped back to my 12 hour car ride days before with the man who would be yours in minutes. I snickered to myself. I had made him recount the entire relationship to me during the drive. The sky turned pink and purple as we drove into the Dallas skyline, and he played a song for me.

"Cause when you love me where I am, baby I'm a better man."

You make him better. No matter where he is-- in sadness, in doubt, in ecstasy, or in a gazebo with a ring-- you always make him better. You make me better, too. I looked around. You make us all better. 

There was a moment in the ceremony when I was up there next to you, and I closed my eyes for a second. My skin tingled from the sunshine, I heard a couple birds chatting, and a slight breeze swept my hair behind my ear. Our friends sang. "I wanna live my forever, forever like that."  Everything I truly loved was closer than 50 feet from me. For a minute I remembered what heaven on earth felt like. It was one of those moments-- the kind we could talk about for hours. I felt like I had been swimming in the deep end for years and my head had finally found its way above water. I could breathe. In and out. Love felt as gracious as air. I wanna live my forever, forever like that.

You've been gone one week and you've probably already had your first argument. My guess is you told him repeatedly not to forget something, he assured you that he'd have to be a moron to forget it, and he undoubtedly forgot it. You sat in silence for a couple of minutes until your fingers intertwined and you both remembered that you're having the best week of your life.

I hope that on the difficult days-- when you aren't on your honeymoon-- this letter might be a small reminder of how good it is. I hope you remember how you make him better. How he makes you better. And how you both make me better. All of us better.

I hope you remember that on the day you said, "I do"...we all got a glimpse of heaven. For that, we are grateful.

Rooting for you, team k + s.