Holidays are a special time for all. The hustle-and-bustle is paid back in spades as you watch a child’s joy when they unwrap a special gift or when you spend time with extended family. A few years ago, I was given a very special gift at Christmas – one which I will never forget.

This holiday marks the 6th year of my family’s Crohn’s journey. My daughter was diagnosed in August of 2011 with Crohn’s disease. Like so many of you, the months following diagnosis were filled with visits to the doctor, prescriptions and our total immersion into a new world filled with strange sounding acronyms and treatments.

As the year was ending, it was evident that treatment was not going as planned. Regardless of the medication cocktail given, my daughter struggled with continued symptoms. Ultimately, the week before Christmas, she was admitted to the hospital. Many tests later, it was determined surgery was needed. But her physicians wanted to give us Christmas at home, so we went home on December 23 and were scheduled to return on December 26 for surgery.

Crohn’s had other plans. We lasted 14 hours at home and in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve I took her back to the hospital. By 9 am the surgeon said the bowel replacement could not wait any longer. Shortly before noon I watched her being wheeled down for surgery wondering, with disbelief, what just had happened.

I think it’s natural, in these situations, to become self-absorbed. For the next seven hours I was the honored guest at my own pity party. Life could be no worse; it was Christmas and everyone I knew was celebrating with family while mine was sitting on vinyl couches...waiting, wondering and scared to death.

Around 4 pm the surgeon appeared and said the surgery went well. She would be ok, and life would move on. Yet despite all the assurances, I was still self-absorbed, angry and scared. I spent Christmas Eve night with her in the hospital. While she slept, I walked the floor still celebrating at my own pity party. In four short months, our life was shaken like a snow globe.

The floor was very quiet. Ours was one of only a handful of families there that night. As I walked I could hear holiday music playing at the nurse’s station. It was White Christmas by Bing Crosby. Suddenly, the intercom broke with ‘code blue labor and delivery.’ And I was shocked to realize that while my day was indeed trying, someone else’s was downright horrible. My girl was sleeping soundly, while someone else's was struggling to breathe.

Sometimes life just punches you right in the gut. Often, when we’re truly shaken, we learn important lessons. That night Crohn’s gave me a valuable gift. A realization that most things are not as bad as they seem. Regardless of what is in front of you, there is some positive somewhere. You just need to find it.

My daughter has the most beautiful spirit. She has handled her illness with grace. I have never witnessed her attending a pity party over her treatment, how she feels or what she can or cannot do. Once I asked her “why are you so happy?”, and her reply was “why wouldn’t I be daddy?”. I am certain she is like many of your children, facing adversity with a smile and learning that they are so much tougher than they thought.

My daughter taught me that life is about contrast – you cannot know good without seeing bad. You cannot know joy without feeling sorrow, and you cannot appreciate health without sickness. In their times of illness, our children teach us wonderful lessons about strength and courage. And, at least for my family, this disease has brought us closer. We’ve been forced to have conversations, which most families don’t even consider. The openness we have is looked at with envy from other families. While Crohn’s does provide its own difficulties, I can see some glimmers of benefit.

As the holidays come and go – appreciate the gifts we have been given. Not for one day, but for the entire year. These are the gifts our children have given to us.


Stay in the LOOP - sign up for updates and never miss a post!

Read more posts by Justin

Built by Veracity Media on NationBuilder