I attended my first Christmas party of the season last night. An annual event, the party is hosted every year by Joan, a woman I’ve known for about thirty years. She and her sister started the tradition together in the 1980’s and when her sister passed on, Joan continued in her absence. She’d first invited me to her Christmas bash about ten years ago.
The parties are lots of fun. A group of ladies from every walk of life—all acquaintances of Joan—come together for an evening of silly internet games, cookie swapping, an ornament exchange and a potluck. Each year a different group assembles, dependent upon the date, the weather and personal schedules. Some women are retired, others are in high school, all are there for a good time.
But last night everyone in attendance came in a somber mood, because we all understood how close we had come to losing our effervescent hostess this year, and each of us were praising God that He had seen fit to leave her with us.
Joan is an icon in my mind. She staunchly tells everyone that God has, is, and will continue taking care of her.
Left alone at the age of twenty-seven to raise three small children while her unfaithful husband slept around, she landed a job as a cook at a local fraternity. She attended church where my husband and I worshipped. He and another man from our church had helped her move into her house when she was able to afford one. Though the fraternities she worked for changed as the seasons passed, and her children married and left home, Joan continued cooking until she retired in 2009. For anyone who is or has raised children, knowing that Joan did it by herself while working long hours over a stove baffles most of us.
This summer, though, Joan faced an obstacle greater than those early years of raising kids. Rushed to a hospital when she collapsed, the emergency team of physicians discovered a massive tumor threatening to take her life. She stayed two days in the facility so the staff could stabilize her in order to operate. Before the surgery she was told that she probably wouldn’t survive the surgery. Her comeback? “God has always taken care of me. I’ll be fine.”
To remove the tumor took four-and-a-half hours and four pints of blood. The ugly growth weighed forty pounds. Joan recovered at the hospital for three weeks before being moved to a rehabilitation facility where she stayed the remainder of three months in recovery.
After the surgery the doctors informed her that chances for a complete recovery weren’t good, her quality of life would be affected, that she would never drive again, that her life as she knew it probably would never return. She smiled and repeated what she’d always believed. “God has always taken care of me. I’ll be fine.”
Yesterday, before the party, she’d been to see her physician one more time. The doctor declared her cancer-free, telling her that though she was still healing, she would make a full recovery. The physician also said that every doctor at the regional facility where she was treated had been called in to attend to her. Finally, the doctor admitted, “It is a miracle you are here.”
Joan just smiled. She already knew that. Because God has, is and will always take care of her.
Merry Christmas, my wonderful, faith-driven friend.