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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: Better Than I Could Have Imagined
By Micheline Murray


"Don't worry Aunt Joan, no matter what happens, you'll never spend another holiday alone." My words from the spring haunted me as the fall air turned crisp and thoughts began to turn toward Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although only late October, it didn't seem likely that she would be able to leave the nursing home even by then. Thankfully, she was closer now, having finally transferred from a facility an hour away to be within fifteen minutes of most of us. Never having married, her nieces, nephews and our children were her family.

She wouldn't be alone, but she wouldn't be at home with us either. Painful infections on both legs from recurring diabetic ulcers make it impossible for her to travel unless it was medically necessary. I just didn't know if she could manage the trip. What about the front steps? Maybe we could put up a temporary ramp to wheel her into the house. And then there were the "what ifs." What if...one of the kids bumped her legs? What if...someone accidentally let the dog (the very big, rambunctious dog) in and he jumped on her? We would just have to figure it out. More than anything I wanted her to spend this Christmas in a real home surrounded by her family.

I wasn't upset when she went into the Emergency Room on November 2nd; she often spent a few days or weeks in the hospital when the infections got particularly bad, sometimes affecting her heart rate and breathing. I guess that's why I wasn't prepared for how frail she looked when I arrived. I thought, "She's not going to make it this time." Each day she grew weaker, losing all ability to do anything for herself. Only a few weeks before she had refused my help as she put on a sweater. Days earlier, she was still somewhat mobile. Now she was unable to feed herself, unable even to lift her arm to try. We learned that the infection had finally gotten into her bloodstream. In a state of septic shock, she was not responding to massive doses of antibiotics. I wanted to shout, "Who are you and what have you done with my aunt?!!" I taped a photo of her from a few years ago to her bed so that the staff could see who she really was. Always having been clear that she never wanted to live in an incapacitated state, we could only keep her comfortable. The swiftness of her decline was shocking to all of us as we took turns at her side.

Happy to take the overnights, I was so greatly blessed by our conversations. Often sleeping and confused during the day, she would wake and be coherent at night as we talked on and off. When the realization hit her that she was actually dying, she was so conflicted. On the one hand, she was eager to see her mother, grandmother, and two brothers again. She listened happily as I read Psalm after Psalm, and sang hymns that she liked. Yet at two a.m., exactly one week after she was admitted, she turned to me and said, "I'm ready to go, but I don't know if I'm going to 'get in.'" What?? I was speechless, because I knew how impartant her faither was to her; in fact, she had once been a nun! Tired, she only nodded as I prayed Romans 10:9 with her. Yet I knew she had accepted His promise of eternal life. Always full of surprises, she woke at six a.m., asking to pray again; this time she wanted to say it out loud!

Those precious words were the last she spoke before passing away three days later on November 12th. Although so grateful that she was no longer in pain, and having the assurance that I would see her again, I was still devastated. How could it have happened so quickly? I felt as if I had failed her. I had been so sure that we would be able to bring her home for Christmas! Then, God spoke to my heart, gently showing me the that He had done just that. For she would be in her REAL home for Christmas, surrounded by more family than I could have ever imagined.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marlene Austin11/28/08
Heartfelt rendering of a personal memoir. :)
Gregory Kane11/30/08
I don't know if this really happened but it certainly rang true. You explored a good range of emotions and your ending sounded authentic to my ears. Well done. I won't say 'enjoyable' because there's a little too much pain and sorrow for that. But very satisfying otherwise.
Catrina Bradley 12/02/08
Your writing really shines when you add your personal feelings to the narrative. I like the dialog, too; let us hear your characters speak more! And breaking up long paragraphs, would give your important sentences more punch.

I love this tribute to your Aunt Joan. It flows well, and your writing skill is evident. The beginning caught my heart, and the ending left me with a hopeful peace. Very strong entry!!
Deborah Porter 12/04/08
Congratulations on your Highly Commended award, Micheline. Well done. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Natalie Cole05/13/09
I agree with Catrina- the emotions involved in the narrative were terrific :)