A Modern Day Christmas Miracle?

Jim bringing a pine cone drenched in peanut butter and birdseed to Krista's grave site.

Jim bringing a pine cone drenched in peanut butter and birdseed to Krista’s grave site.

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.




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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Pilgrimage (54 Posts)

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child offers encouragement and information for other parents living in the long season of sorrow. Drawn from interviews from mothers and fathers on their grief journey, plus Linda Lawrence Hunt's memoir of their family's loss, it also includes recent research on grief, resilience, and creative healing.

2 Responses to A Modern Day Christmas Miracle?

  • This is a lovely blog entry Linda and full of love, hope, wonder and generosity from all corners…thank you for sharing and Merry Christmas…Blessings, Catherine

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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
Follow our path…

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Pilgrimage through Loss can be purchased from your favorite independent bookstore OR
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Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot. BOLD SPIRIT: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America introduces readers to this fascinating journey of an audacious act of courage and love of a mother trying to save a family farm.

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website www.allianceofhope.org

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer) www.acco.org

+ Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.org

+ First Candle: www.firstcandle.org Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) www.catholiccharities.net/loss

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) www.missfoundation.org On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children www.pomc.com

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: www.taps.org 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths