By Abigail Hardy
It was December 5th, 1992. As I rushed with my parents into the emergency room entrance late that night, a gurney sped past us. Like a snapshot, I can remember, the sight of a leg, knee up in the air covered with a white sheet and below the knee, unnaturally, something large and black was bisecting the bloody leg. Is that really what I saw? I was too unsure to ask my parents. I could tell they were more scared than they were willing to admit to me.
I sat in the waiting room of the ER. I felt lost and unsteady as my parents went back to talk with the doctors. Words like “accident” “coma” “racing” “head-on” were punctuating the air of the waiting room as people from our small church slowly filled it.
Things like this do not happen to us. Not to kids coming back from a church youth group trip. Surely not, God.
The van, driven by our church’s youth group leader and my Dad’s closest friend, had been hit head-on by a man in a Corvette. He had been racing 120 mph down the curving road, some pieces of his car left hanging high in the trees.
My oldest sister Hannah had been in the back of the van with four other junior high students from our church youth group, and two adult leaders in the front. Kirsten, the energetic college student from WCU who helped with the youth group, died instantly. Hannah was in a coma. Mr. Brown, the driver, was the victim we had seen as we rushed into the ER with the brake pedal stuck through his lower leg and a broken pelvis and ribs. He had been pinned in the car and had prayed with the kids and kept them calm until the emergency services arrived and were able to cut him out. Another student had a serious head injury and the other three had escaped with broken bones or scrapes and bruises.
My sister had been airlifted to Memorial Mission in Asheville soon after my parents and I had arrived at the local ER. When I got to visit her in the hospital the next day, I remember the sight of my mother, holding her hand, singing hymns and Christmas carols to her unresponsive body.
On the third day, as my mother sang Silent Night to her daughter, she heard my sister’s voice join with hers. Hannah had woken up.
This is the meaning of Christmas, lived out by the people I lived with.
Mr. Brown, speaking peace to panicked kids as his own pain loomed like a giant wave above him.
Kirsten, losing her life in the middle of obedience to Christ’s call on her to minister to kids.
My mom, singing Silent Night over my sister in total faith that God is our healer and restorer.
My sister, given back life through no merit or effort of her own, and, oh, so thankful for that gift.
And, yes, the tears fall when I sing Silent Night at Christmas. Because this is a beautiful, broken world that our Almighty God was born to save.
Father God, we have joy and we have pain in this life. I thank you for redeeming our pain and making our joy complete.