Our Angel Ornament

Thirteen years ago today, on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year,  my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes.  It was four days before Christmas and we were supposed to be exchanging gifts at my in-laws' house before travelling for the week.  Instead we spent the day in two different emergency rooms and the night in the pediatric intensive care unit, curled together in a hospital crib, terrified by what was transpiring and by what we were learning was ahead of us.

In the midst of that dark day, this angel appeared, courtesy of the hospital's chaplain.  Angels, as we're reminded this time of year, are bearers of good news.  They remind their listeners to "fear not!"  They offer up explanations for confusing situations.  They bring light into the darkness.

For me, even thirteen years later, Christmas is still bittersweet.  There are moments every year when am reminded how close we came to losing our child to diabetes.  There are moments when I reflect on the surreal Christmas we spent at the hospital with Santa landing on the helipad to deliver toys and prime rib dinners in the hospital cafeteria.  There are moments when I look back on singing round after round of Away in a Manger to calm my baby during blood draws and examinations. There are moments when I consider the life which that week's events left us with, and wonder how we've managed to live it for so many years. 

But when I unwrap this angel ornament each year I am reminded that even in the darkest moments there is light.  I'm reminded as I hang it on the tree that in the midst of the confusion of that day in 2002, there were wise and helpful people who diagnosed my child, treated her appropriately, and saved her life.  I'm reminded each time it catches my eye that throughout that terrifying week, and through the years that followed, there have been supportive voices all along the way saying, "fear not."  I'm reminded as I pack it away each January that there is good news on the horizon, of treatments which will make diabetes less and less of a burden in the years to come.

I remain unable to sing Away in a Manger without becoming glassy eyed.  There are moments every Christmas season when memories of that dark week play out through my mind and leave me feeling angry and bitter, or sad.  But a glance at our angel on the tree serves as a reminder to fear not, that there is light shining through the darkness.



  1. That was beautiful. My son was diagnosed in August and one thing I remember so clearly was how cold it was in the air conditioned hospital while it was so hot and humid outside. Any time I'm cold inside in the summer, it brings me right back to those days. But I've learned to love summer again :)

  2. I have similar moments too.. we were diagnosed in summer, but there are some things that easily take me back to that place. Big hugs to you and your family.


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