My husband passed away suddenly in the summer of 2011, leaving me to raise our 12 year old daughter and 11 year old son. I had two older kids from a previous marriage. That same year saw my oldest son get married, and by the end of the year was deployed to Afghanistan. My older daughter gave birth to my first grandson. So many emotions, so many life-changing events!
I had promised my two younger children that we would go to Alaska when their brother returned from Afghanistan - this would be November of 2012. We stayed for a week and had the most awesome time, we had a lot to be thankful for.
When we returned to Iowa, my then 13 year daughter had some swelling between two of her toes, with the toes starting to look deformed. Within the next few days of doctor's appointments and tests, we would eventually have surgery to remove what was thought to be a benign mass. On New Years' Eve Day, 2012, we were given the diagnosis of cancer.
Chemo started immediately and luckily the cancer had not spread. We would make trips to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital almost weekly for inpatient stays. I missed a lot of work, taking a lot of the time without pay, so I could be with my daughter. There was really no time to ask "why", we needed to focus on getting my daughter better. The local community held fundraisers to help with travel and misc. expenses. It is so hard to be on the receiving end of this kindness.
Through all of this, I tried to keep up with my grief counseling, although the topic usually changed to the emotional stressors of the cancer diagnosis, missing work, etc.
My daughter finished her treatments just before Thanksgiving of this year. We still have a few scans to be repeated in 3 months. Whether it is trying to keep up with it all, the stress of the holidays, I ended up with the flu a couple of weeks before Christmas. It got worse the week before.
Christmas Eve we would go to my folks' for the family Christmas. My Mom had given my son an ornament with a picture of him and his father in it, with the saying "don't shed a tear.....I'm spending Christmas with Jesus this year." The emotions just started flooding in. Everyone understands there are bad days occasionally but for the holidays, I always try to smile my way through! I was having trouble this Christmas. I would eventually sniffle my way through 10 p.m. Mass and made it home, feeling blessed by having my family safe and healthy with me.
I was sitting on the couch with my daughter, watching a Christmas show on TV and catching up on Facebook on our iPad when the doorbell rang. It was about 11:55 p.m. It was a little scary. I looked in the driveway and there was no car. Was someone going to try to rob us? I went to the back door and saw no one outside. I went back to the front door and slowly opened it with my son beside me. On the front step was a large glass jar with what looked like a lot of change in it, along with a $100 bill and the book, Christmas Jars. The jar is beautiful in itself. Inside the front cover was a beautifully written was a note to our family that they had been following Abby's treatments all year. "May this Christmas Jar bring new hope to you and your family this holiday season." My tears would flow again. We have been so blessed by having so many support us with prayers and random acts of kindness such as this. How could we be deserving of this much love? It has been a tough, emotional couple of years, but we are making it.
I can't believe that I have not heard of the Christmas Jars before now. What a neat idea! I hope it is a tradition that our family can start. Thank you to the anonymous giver(s) of this magical present.