Grace: A Christmas miracle

Christmas Gift — Grace Conner Battle (left) pictured with her cousin Cat Hewett (news editor) during their Thanksgiving  celebration in 2007.

Christmas Gift — Grace Conner Battle (left) pictured with her cousin Cat Hewett (news editor) during their Thanksgiving celebration in 2007.

I have tried to write this story so many times, I have lost count. Every time words fail me, they seem so inadequate. The English language does not contain words enough to properly describe the Christmas of 2000, it does not even come close.

To describe Christmas of 2000, I have to start in June of 1996, the day my cousin was born.

Caleb Conner Battle defied odds just in being born. His twin had died in-utero and his brain appeared to be filled with fluid. Caleb was born one month early. A CT scan after Caleb was born revealed that he had very little physical brain and his head was almost completely filled with fluid.

When Caleb came home, he had a small portion of his frontal lobe and an underdeveloped brain stem, could not talk and had limited use of his legs and arms. My family never really learned how much Caleb could see, but he rarely responded to anything visual.

Someone in my family told me once that Caleb would never be able to smile, but whenever my uncle would talk to him, Caleb did just that.

Caleb also loved music. Every time he was sitting in church with his parents and the piano would begin to play or the congregation would sing, the corners of Caleb’s lips would curl into a sign of sheer happiness.

Then, the Thursday of spring break my sixth grade year, the year 2000, I woke up much earlier than normal and my first coherent thought was “something is wrong.” My mother, somehow knowing I was awake, came and got me from my room. She sat me down on the couch and told me that Caleb had died in the night.

I cried for a little while before venturing to the window in our dining room. When I looked out I could see my aunt and uncle’s house down the street, blinking red and white lights covering the army of cars around it. My uncle was in the yard, staring at the back of an ambulance.

Caleb was buried with his favorite stuffed dinosaur and my family began to pick up the broken pieces.

We like to say that every cloud has his silver lining and God has a plan for everything. I can say that is true.

My aunt was pregnant.

We prayed this baby would live. Then we prayed that God would bring the child, due Dec. 28, just a few days early, so my aunt and uncle would not have a Christmas without a child.

Christmas Eve came on a Sunday that year. We went to church and then we went to my grandparent’s house for food and presents. My aunt and uncle were with other family, at least for a little while.

We opened packages and right after dessert, someone, I think it was my dad, stood up and announced that we had to get to the hospital.

My aunt had gone into labor earlier that morning.

That Christmas, I witnessed a miracle that was not on 34th street and my Christmas was only as white as the hospital walls, but it was the greatest Christmas I ever had.

I cannot really remember many specifics of the night, but one thing I will never forget is walking into that hospital room with all the rest of my family and seeing Grace, all 7 lbs. 7 oz. of her, for the first time.

At the sight of that tiny head resting on my aunt’s arms, I cried my first tears of pure joy. It was in that moment that real Christmas spirit came alive to me.

People can say that God is no longer in the miracle-making business, but I can just say, “God gave us grace.”

Christmas can get overcrowded and materialistic, but we still have grace.

“Happy holidays” can replace the too religious alternative, but grace cannot be removed.

That is the true meaning of the season. It is not family, friends or time to relax. The true meaning, the real reason for celebrating Christmas is because God gave us grace.

Happy birthday, my dear cousin, and Merry Christmas.

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