We’re creating a new Guideposts.org

It’s faster, it’s mobile friendly—and we’d love you to have a sneak peekClick here to preview

Christmas in the Waiting Room

The hospital was the last place she wanted to be, but it served to remind her of the reason for the season.

By Kathy Howard, Blackshear, Georgia

As appeared in

Dreary. that was the only word for it. The waiting room was a U-shaped space outside the hospital’s cardiac ICU in Greenville, South Carolina. Stiff gray chairs with metal arms lined the walls; stains blotted the carpet. A dozen people were gathered in clusters, heads bent in weariness and worry.

The air felt still and stale. Could there be a more joyless place to spend Christmas?

We were hunched in our own corner. Mom and Granny had been here since the night before, the twenty-second. I made the five-hour drive from our home in Georgia as soon as I got the news that Granddaddy had suffered a heart attack and needed surgery.

Featured Product

Guideposts Magazine - August Issue

Guideposts Magazine

Try Guideposts magazine Risk-Free! Get 2 Free Issues - plus a Free Gift!

I hated seeing him in his hospital bed, a breathing tube in his mouth, a tangle of wires attached to his 87-year-old body. The surgery was successful but the doctors were guarded. “We have to wait and see,” they said. But how long? Days, a week, a month?

No way around it, this would be our place to celebrate Christmas, not at home baking cookies, humming carols, stuffing stockings, decorating the tree. That antiseptic hospital smell instead of pine boughs; fluorescent lights instead of candles.

I flipped through a year-old magazine, too distracted to actually read anything. I glanced at the two women across from us and wondered what their story was. As if on cue Mom nudged me.

“They’re sisters,” she murmured. “Their mother had an aneurysm. She was a photographer and took some beautiful photographs. Let me introduce you.”

A minute later we were talking about the amazing places their mother had traveled to. One of them took out a bag of bagel chips and passed them around. Our crunching seemed incongruous in the tense silence. We almost laughed, then put the bag of chips out by the vending machines for everyone to enjoy.

I returned to my magazine. My husband, Moye, was staying at Mom’s house with our two young girls. We’d had to throw everything in suitcases so fast I couldn’t believe we hadn’t forgotten anything. At least I’d wrapped the girls’ presents. There were still their stocking stuffers, though.

FREE eBook

Inspirational Quotes about Life, Love, Faith and Hope

Inspirational Quotes about Life, Love, Faith and Hope

Be uplifted, inspired, and motivated when you download a Free eBook of our most popular inspirational sayings.

I tossed my magazine aside. No use. Granny took out her Bible. She and Granddaddy had been married 65 years. She was beyond tired, but insisted on staying at the hospital, waiting. I wished I could do more than just sit here feeling helpless.

An older woman in an overcoat and a scarf walked in and sat down by herself. Mom and Granny seemed to know her too.

Granny went over to talk while Mom filled me in: “Her husband is a heart patient too. They haven’t been in town for very long and don’t have many friends. Their son lives nearby but he’s sick and can’t come. She’s all alone.”

“How’s your son?” Granny asked. “And your husband?”

A girl in sweatpants and a baggy sweatshirt had taken over three chairs and was curled up on them with a blanket and pillow. She couldn’t have been more than 18. A big plastic garbage bag sat on the floor next to her. It looked like it held everything she owned.

Mom followed my gaze. “Her boyfriend was in a shooting,” Mom said. “He’s in for surgery right now. We’re waiting to find out if he’ll pull through.”

I closed my eyes and said a prayer.

Every few hours we were allowed into Granddaddy’s room to check on him, but just for a minute. Then it was back to the waiting room. Doctors would come and talk to a relative. Nurses reported on a patient.

The stock of food by the vending machines grew. Nuts, pretzels, cookies. Someone added candy canes. A splash of holiday cheer.

Featured Product

Guideposts Magazine - August Issue

Guideposts Magazine

Try Guideposts magazine Risk-Free! Get 2 Free Issues - plus a Free Gift!

The girl in sweatpants sat up and stretched. Mom went over to her and sat, holding her hand for a moment, bowing her head. I couldn’t have imagined the two of them meeting anyplace else, Mom in her perky Christmas sweater and the girl in her sweats.

Here in the waiting room the barriers fell away. We were one. Worried. Waiting. Hoping. Praying.

I called Moye.