Coming face to face with death on Christmas morning was almost unbearable for Aaron and his family. But then God revealed His love for them through a precious gift named Grace.
Aaron’s mom lay beneath the blankets, her body frail. Aaron slipped around the end of the bed where he could see her face. Her eyes were closed and she was motionless, except her steady, labored breathing.
“She is having a lot of trouble breathing on her own.” Dr. Amer stood in the doorway. “It began last night and, at this point, I’m afraid there is nothing I can do.”
Aaron nodded. “I thought she was going to be awake.”
“I’m sorry. Her eyes were open a few minutes ago, but her body is exhausted. We are making her as comfortable as possible.”
Dr. Amer paused, and Aaron knew what was coming.
“I think it would be good for you to call your family and let them know.”
She had been fighting so hard for so long, the inevitable actually felt like it would never happen. Was this finally going to be the day?
“I’ll leave you alone,” Dr. Amer said.
Aaron nodded again, but didn’t take his eyes off his mom’s face.
He stayed by her side for a few minutes, holding her and stroking her forehead, and then walked back to the hallway to call his brother and sister.
He dialed Anne but she didn’t pick up. He didn’t want to leave a message and called his brother instead.
Matt said he would get to the airport as fast as he could, but flying standby was the best he could manage on Christmas Eve. On top of that, a massive winter storm was slamming the Midwest with heavy snow, so flying at any point was uncertain.
Aaron dialed Anna again. This time she answered.
“I have bad news,” he said when he heard her voice. “Mom asked to see us this morning, but by the time I got to her bed she was already out again. Dr. Amer thinks she doesn’t have long.”
Anna was silent, but then Aaron heard her crying.
“Do you think you and Garrett can come back to the hospital now?”
“I don’t believe this,” Anna said.
“I know, I can’t even think anymore. Everything feels surreal.”
“This is crazy,” Anna said. “The adoption agency just called and woke us up. The birth mom has gone into labor early and the baby is coming—today.”
“Are you serious? When? Where?”
“That’s the crazy part. The baby is being born at St. Luke’s!” she said.
Anna arrived at the hospital a little over an hour later and by noon a small group of close family had gathered in the ICU waiting room.
Aaron and Anna spent the afternoon and Christmas Eve by their mother’s bedside. And, every hour or so, Anna and Garrett made the long walk to the maternity wing of St. Luke’s to check on the arrival of their baby.
“Why does everything always happen at once?” Anna asked Aaron as they sat next to their mom, listening to the steady flow of oxygen and the sound of their mom’s labored breath. “It’s been five years of ups and downs. We lose dad, mom gets sick, the agency puts us on the waiting list—so many disappointments… and now our little girl is being born right down the hallway.”
“I know,” Aaron shook his head. “But it’s finally happening. You’re going to be a mother.”
Anna returned his smile. “I wish mom could meet her.”
“Me too,” Aaron paused. “I know she’s love her so much.”
Tears streaked down Anna’s face. “I can’t decide if I’m happy or sad.
How can I celebrate when mom is dying?
Aaron rose from his chair and gave Anna a hug, both of their faces stained with tears.
“Mom would want you to celebrate,” Aaron said. “She would be bouncing off the walls if she could.”
Anna wiped her face and took a deep breath. “I know.”
“Come on. Go check on your baby, and I’ll go tell everyone in the waiting room what’s going on.”
Well into the night, just a few hours before sunrise on Christmas morning, mom quietly slipped away to heaven.
After a few minutes of just sitting quietly beside her lifeless body, Aaron stepped out of the room and called Matt, his voice breaking as he explained the she was gone. They wept on the phone, sharing tears of sadness and relief.
“Mom’s home,” Matt managed.
“Yeah,” Aaron struggled. “Home—and healed.”
Coming face to face with death on Christmas morning was almost unbearable. Waves of emotion had rocked Aaron back and forth, but those words settled him like an anchor in a storm. He knew his mom was gone, but he also knew she was living on. Her fight was over. Her weary body was finally at rest.
Aaron walked down to the NICU and found Anna and Garrett in a private room. He slowly opened the door and Anna waved for him to come in.
“Look how beautiful she is,” Anna whispered.
“She’s perfect,” Garrett added.
“Is she okay? I mean, she’s healthy and she’s okay?” Aaron said, searching for the right way to ask.
Aaron and Garrett both nodded.
“She’s healthy,” Anna said. “The doctor said she’ll have to stay here for a few weeks as they wean her off the drugs she’s become accustomed to in the womb. But they think she’s going to be okay.”
Aaron leaned in closer to the incubator.
“She’s beautiful,” he stammered. “Just perfect. And she’s here.” He looked up at Aaron and Garrett. “You guys have waited forever, but she’s finally here.”
“We already had a name picked out,” Anna said. “We are naming her after mom.”
Aaron stood up and let the news sink in. For a moment, the emotion was too much. He leaned back down, as close as he could to her face.
“Hi Grace. I’m your uncle Aaron. I love you so much.” He wiped the tears from his face. “You’re our little Christmas Grace.”
There was a quiet knock on the door. Anna and Garrett’s pastor, Jake, and his wife, Siena, stuck their heads into the room.
“Can we come in?” Siena whispered.
Anna smiled and motioned for them to come in.
As they entered the room they saw the tears on Aaron’s face.
“Is something wrong?” Jake asked. “Is she all right?”
“She’s amazing,” Aaron managed through the tears. “We’re naming her after mom.”
“That’s beautiful,” Siena said.
“Can you believe she was born on Christmas morning?” Aaron said.
“If it’s okay, we’d like to pray a dedication over her,” Siena said.
After a minute or two, they gathered around Grace’s little rolling incubator, and Siena’s soft voice filled the room as she prayed for God’s favor and thanked Him for the precious gift of Grace’s life. As Siena was praying, Aaron reached into his pocket and pulled out the last note he had found by mom’s bedside a week or so before.
She had known, somehow, that it would be her final words of encouragement before she was gone. When Siena finished, Aaron held the note out in the palm of his hand for them all to see:
See you soon. Love, Mom.