The longest night of the year is tonight, the winter solstice, the darkest day, the day before the light starts to stay just a bit longer. It doesn’t seem coincidental that the darkest day falls just four days before we celebrate the birth of the Light of the world, and it doesn’t seem coincidental to me that this day also falls on the same day of the month that my world ended just seven months ago.
It was a much shorter night that night in May when I held his head as they prepared him for the emergency cardiac surgery to repair the ruptured aortic artery in his abdomen. The night didn’t last nearly long enough. I held his head while he screamed in pain and I tried to help him think of something calm and peaceful. I reminded him of our vacation at the beach as we had celebrated our first New Year as husband and wife. He smiled at me at the memory and for a moment the pain was gone and in the next moment he was gone. I screamed at the Doctor that he wasn’t responding and they began to resuscitate his heart. There was no one in the hall with me as I screamed and sobbed listening to them restart my husband’s heart. There was no one to hold my hand when they came and said that they had restarted his heart but did I still want them to do everything they could do to save him?
How dare they ask such a thing?! How could they not see that this man was laughing, loving and living life just a few short hours ago?! How did they not know how vibrant and healthy he was just that morning? So full of life and excitement that we had finally found our first “off-campus” home! Didn’t they know the plans we had for a future in ministry together? Couldn’t they see that we were two halves that made each other whole? Why did they need to ask?
I screamed at them through my sobs that of course I wanted them to try everything. The surgeon seemed reassuring that this was a survivable event. I moved like a zombie following the doctors and my husband to the door of the operating room where I could go no further. I realized after they took him away that the Pastor had arrived in time to wait with me. I called family but it was in the middle of the night and no one picked up. The pastor tried to engage me in conversation. He asked me to tell him about Don. I spent the next two hours telling him what a wonderful husband I had, how special he was, how magical our love was, how rare it was for us to have found each other so late in life and how grateful I was for the love we shared. I doubt I was eloquent or even making any sense but he was kind and he listened.
The surgical intern came out to give us an update; the news was good, the stint was in place but he was bloated from receiving so many transfusions and weak from losing so much blood. She told us he had made it through the hardest part of the surgery and that he wasn’t out of the woods but it looked good. The pastor and I said prayers of gratitude I tried calling family again still no answer, I left voice mails but it was still the middle of the night. The pastor and I talked more, this time more relaxed, this time with less fear in our hearts.
Before we could understand why, the surgeon was standing in front of us. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t still working on my husband. He started to speak, saying “despite our……….”, I truly don’t recall anything he said after that. I remember being sick to my stomach. I remember saying I wanted to see him, demanding to see my husband, not being able to comprehend that he was truly gone without seeing his body. I remember holding his hand and singing to him. He loved to hear me sing.
Today, the shortest day, I remember the shortest night of my life. It all went so fast. He went from lovingly holding me in his arms to his last thought in my arms in less than half a day and now I relive it every night.
So on this longest night of the year if you are feeling blue, remember that if you have someone to say goodnight to that you are more blessed than many who for this Christmas will wake up alone. Possibly alone for the first Christmas ever and with the knowledge that the one person who could make the sunshine will never be with us again, but also knowing, in that pain, that that one person is now with the Light of the world, and THAT Light will never be defeated by darkness. Let that Light wipe away the darkness in your heart and remember that tomorrow will be a shorter night.by