Erin Joy smiled immediately after the extractions.
Christmas reminds us of our losses. My wife and I will have a great time with Martin and Tammy's family, especially since we live only a few minutes away from them. Sometimes I imagine two other families that might have been there - Bethany's and Erin's.
Most of the time, I look back at those unique moments with our daughters. They were disabled by neurological degeneration, which made them progressively weaker. However, they were alert, smart, and eager to communicate with smiles, laughter, crying, pouting, and some deliberate actions. Muscle control was very difficult, but Erin could dig her nails into me to get attention and laugh at me for yelling "Ow, you did that on purpose." That was her Olympic gold medal, quite an accomplishment.
Bethany was once "disciplined" at school, put in the corner. She found a mirror and watched the class, smiling at outsmarting the teachers, who loved her cleverness.
My wife and I were talking about the Bethany/Erin effect on our lives. We had to battle for the most basic care for both of them. Medical insights were difficult to get across to the medical people, and the helping professions were often in the way, too.
We learned to enjoy the moments with all three children, even though they were tinged with sorrow, especially because we knew the inescapable facts. We still talk about how much fun it was to put Erin in a hammock and swing her around on her birthday.
Bethany laughed about spitting her least favorite food back at her nurse, and her nurse loved telling us. When I hear about the loss of a friend, I think about those moments.
I learned that a prominent Quad-Citian, Karl Huntoon, was taken to hospice care the other day. I only remember him as a student at Moline High. Like many others, I moved around the country and lost touch with many Moliners. Now I am in touch with classmates, some on a regular basis, through blogging and Facebook. I am in awe of the many accomplishments of my classmates, from rocket science to medicine to community service.
Blogging is a time warp machine. I look up the old photos and see my friends as they were in school. Now they are grandparents with grandchildren who look just like them. I see a FB photo and think, "That has to be Tim's grandson." Or "Three in a row - same blue dress!" (Kathy's clan), because grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter all posed in the same dress.
The best memories are those seemingly trivial events that grow in importance over the years. Eventually they dwarf everything else. The earthly treasures are nothing in comparison with the spiritual treasures of the Gospel. In fact, the birth of Christ was a trivial event for most people on earth. The day was unheralded, except for the shepherds. The politicians feared Him, but the Wise Men from the East came to observe the promised Savior, bringing gifts.
Holiday trips were difficult then, too. Going to Bethlehem was a long, tedious uphill climb. The inn had no room. The relatives failed to accommodate the Holy Family, who traveled incognito. No one important recognized their historic importance. A baby in a manger looks appealing now, but I do not know of any mother who wants to give birth in an animal shed and lay her firstborn in a feeding trough.
Luther had a humorous way of chiding his congregation. He said they would have gladly changed the diapers for Baby Jesus. He said, "Why not do it now? Serving your neighbor is doing the same for Jesus."