“Your dad can come home for Christmas Day but he cannot do so unless the ramp is on the house.” Those words from my mom and the staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, NY greeted me ten days before Christmas and about five seconds after I heard those words … the panic set in!
Let me back up just a little bit. My dad had been involved in an accident in early November of that year that had left him paralyzed from his chest down. As you might imagine, that news was quite an adjustment for my family and especially my mom and dad. My dad was in his late 50’s at the time and was in fairly good health. The damage to his spine in the accident was irreversible and there was no hope that he would ever walk again.
Dad had endured about a nine-hour surgery on his back and had been a couple of weeks in the hospital recovering from that surgery. Once he recovered, it was time for him to start his rehab. The rehab was going to be long. The hospital estimated that it would be a minimum of three months as my dad had to relearn how to do most everything from a wheelchair. During this time, my parent’s house had to be “remodeled” in order to accommodate a handicapped person in a wheelchair.
Now, back to those words that I opened my article with! My dad, who was always one of the most determined people I ever met, did very well in rehab. He learned quickly and because of his physical strength was able to attack most of the tasks and master them quickly. Part of the rehab was to make day trips to the patient’s home, eventually leading to overnight stays and then they would be released to out-patient therapy. We were not expecting these day trips to take place until the new year but then, they sprung that announcement on us that dad had done so well in rehab that he could come home for a few hours on Christmas Day, but we had to have a ramp.
We had contacted a company about putting the ramp on the house, but they were not going to be there until February. There is no way we were going to disappoint my dad and my mom and we were determined to get my dad home on Christmas Day. My brother is the builder in the family, however, I have some design ability and we got the required specifications from the hospital. My brother and I set out to design a ramp. The hospital approved the design and we went to the hardware store to buy the materials we need.
We both took a couple of days off work and on December 21st, we began building the ramp. Now, keep in mind this is in December and we lived in upstate New York! We had a foot or two of snow in the yard and a lot of frozen ground to dig through. It has been nearly 30 years, but I can still remember my brother and I lying in the snow and trying to dig out the post holes for the ramp supports! We were freezing, yet laughing, and happy to be doing it for our dad.
Two days later, with some additional help from some brothers-in-laws, church members and family friends, we put the finishing touches on the ramp. On December 23rd, the inspector from the hospital came and gave their approval and on Christmas Morning, my mom and I went to the hospital and picked up my dad and brought him home for the first time in nearly two months. We all watched in amazement as dad rolled his wheelchair up the ramp, on to the porch and then, of course, in to the house!
That ramp served my dad for the remainder of his life. I will never forget that Christmas season. The sadness of my dad after the accident in knowing that he would never walk again. The incredible faith he exhibited as he tackled the rehab assignment with amazing determination and my mom’s faith that everything would be okay. I remember my brother and I knowing we were tackling a nearly impossible task of building a ramp in two days in the middle of the winter yet knowing we were going to be successful.
That Christmas Day was amazing. Most of my family was there. We exchanged gifts. We had a nice meal. We exchanged a lot of memories, tears and most of all, we remembered why were celebrating. None of that strength or faith came from us. It came from our Savior, Jesus Christ. The very one whose birth we were celebrating that day. He died for our sins and even in the face of what most people would consider a tragedy, He was faithful.
Did we want God to heal our dad, so he would walk again? Did we believe God could do that? Of course, we did, and I would imagine that every member of my family and numerous friends prayed that prayer at one time or another. However, God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and He knows best. There is no doubt that God was still blessing each of us in very unique ways that Christmas Season and especially that Christmas Day when my dad came home for Christmas.