A Modern Day Christmas Miracle?
Christmas morning. It’s 5 a.m. and I am awake, not to the sounds of Santa Claus visiting our two ‘heart grandchildren,’ but to a growing sense that Jim and I are living within the true Christmas miracle, “Emmanuel,” God with us.
We are visiting at the Seattle home of Aaron Ausland who was married to our 25-year-old daughter Krista before her death while they were volunteering in Bolivia. Shadowed by profound sorrow during the bleak mid-winters of the first few Christmas seasons, I found solace in the modern translation of words from Psalm 51 that a friend sent.
“Heart shattered lives…by no means escape God’s notice.”
But this was more a hope than a sensed reality. There’s not a lot I remember about that first Christmas Eve, except that shortly before trying to get our families to a church service, the dishwasher backed up into the sink with a major plumbing issue. Already in such anguish over the absence of Krista, this relatively mundane inconvenience while preparing a special dinner plunged me into deeper distress. For the next few days, I just went through the motions of Christmas. No joy. Just emptiness.
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER
Finding how life has unfolded for Aaron and our family gives me a deeper trust in God’s faithful presence, the promise of Christmas.
So much goodness abounds. First, Aaron eventually returned to Bolivia where he met and married Gabriela, a compassionate, beautiful, intelligent woman. Her strong love for Aaron includes embracing us as extended family, a generosity of spirit that gifts our days. They live nearer since recently returning to the Northwest after working with World Vision in Colombia.
They have thoughtfully given us their bedroom for our visit and we are sleeping under an afghan lovingly knitted for Krista by my husband’s mother. She too has passed away.
During Christmas Eve dinner, Aaron and his sister show me the hand-made felt tree ornaments created by their mother Linda when they were children. She died during Aaron’s college years from breast cancer and he has called me his heart-mom ever since. Three months later I was also diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.
But their home abounds with love. The losses become a part of their daily gratitude for each other. Their children, 9-year old Thiago and 4-year old Ava, fill their home with exuberant joy. They shared their tradition of reading from a rich collection of children’s Christmas books each night of Advent, culminating in the story in Luke of baby Jesus birth. Both children knew every detail in this biblical account, securely confident that the celebration of Christmas centered on God’s love for all people. Of course, they also looked forward to Santa’s coming, leaving the universal milk and cookies.
Aaron, who writes about his struggles in faith after seeing his wife’s violent death when their bus plunged over a cliff, walks with a quiet confidence and seasoned hope. He now serves as Chair of the Board for the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, along with his ongoing work with World Vision, primarily with an innovative project with youth in Rwanda. I have survived five years after another bout with breast cancer and live grateful for each day.
I am sharing this story because I remember how it seemed unimaginable in the early years of loss that life could unfold with joy-filled days again. Such is the miracle of God’s
Peace to each of you this Christmas Day!
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