It's time for… you guessed it! Part 3 of Katie's Christmas!
This is the last part of the story, so I hope you have enjoyed it! :)
"Ugh…" Katie awoke, feeling exhausted. She tried to take a deep breath but found it difficult, and almost panicked until she saw Mom standing over her.
"Oh, thank God you're awake," Mom said quietly. She bent down and kissed Katie's forehead. She reached towards the bedside table and picked up a small glass of water. She gently placed her hand under Katie’s head and lifted it, tipping the glass toward her daughter’s mouth. "How are you feeling?"
Katie swallowed the water, but could still only manage a few words. "I'm tired, and it's... hard to breathe."
"That's understandable. You've had a severe bout with pneumonia, Dear."
Katie's eyes widened. "Really? How long... have I been… asleep?" She hated the way her voice rasped, hated how hoarse she sounded.
Mom gave her a tearful smile. "Well, you woke up once you got warm. But infection set in, and you've been delirious about a week."
Katie gave a small gasp. She tried to sit up, but flopped back down on her pillow. "I’ve never been this weak in my entire life."
"I would certainly think so. Here, I've got some soup; are you hungry?"
Katie nodded. "A little."
"Good." Mom picked up a bowl and spoon. "Open up, now." She brushed aside Katie's hand. "Kathryn, you are much too weak to feed yourself. Now, open up."
Katie opened her mouth obediently, swallowing as the thick, hot broth slid down her throat and she closed her eyes. "Mmm, that's really good, Mom. Thank you."
Mom smiled and continued feeding her daughter spoonful by spoonful, little by little, until the bowl was nearly empty and Katie couldn't eat anymore.
Katie settled deep into her bedding, closed her eyes, and was almost asleep when her mind played a scene so vividly that her eyes flew open, wide in terror.
"Katie, what's wrong?"
Katie shook all over, as fear filled her. "I just…" her voice trailed off, and she closed her eyes and shuddered. Mom gave her another sip of water. "It played over and over in my mind. I was skating, and I fell through the ice… the water was so cold, and then Isaac-" Her eyes flew open. "Isaac! Where is he?"
Mom bit her lip and looked away.
"Mom! Tell me! I have to know!" Her voice squeaked.
Mom turned back to Katie, and her eyes were red and swollen, tears running down her cheeks. "He's in bad shape, Katie. That cold water was so hard on his lungs. The doctors have almost given up on him."
Katie felt what little wind there was in her lungs leave her in a whoosh.
"No." It was a simple word, one that required little oxygen, but carried so much emotion. "No." It was all she could whisper, over and over, trying to convince herself that it wasn't true, couldn't be true.
“Hope was closest when he fell in, and she jumped in after y’all. It took her a while to find him, and by the time Jerry and Martha got you to the car…” Mom’s voice trailed off.
Katie was silent, lost in thought. “Hope jumped in after me,” she murmured to herself. “She risked her life…” Katie’s eyes jerked back to her mother’s face, clouded with worry. “Mom, how is Hope? Is she all right?”
Mom nodded and smiled. “She was sick for awhile, but she’ll be just fine.” She stood. “Call if you need anything.” With that she slipped out of the room, carrying the bowl and spoon.
Katie settled back into her pillow and was almost asleep once again when a knock came at the door. “Come in,” she called.
The door opened, and there stood Joey. Stood.
Katie’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Joey… what in the world!”
Her brother grinned and leaned against the doorframe. “Surprised you, eh?” He chuckled at her shocked expression and made his way to the bedside chair. “Yeah, figured it was time I gave these babies a try.” He patted his leg braces fondly. “I’ve been wearing them for about a year now, but decided to keep it a surprise.”
Katie’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. She stared at the metal braces, at his crutches. Finally she whispered, “Joey… you’re walking…” tears spilled onto her cheeks.
Joey shifted awkwardly in the chair. “Well, c’mon Kate, it’s not like I performed a miracle or something.”
Katie just stared at him, her vision obscured by tears. Finally, she wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve and let her arm flop back to her side. “But… how come you… never told us?”
“Well, like I said, I wanted it to be a surprise.” Joey sighed. “And, I wanted to be sure it would work. I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up. I know, that’s a lousy excuse. I guess... I guess it was just…” He paused. “Fear of failure.”
Katie shook her head slightly. “No.” She tried to take a deep breath. “Not… a failure…” Joey had to lean in close to hear her.
“Here,” he said picking up the glass of water. He pillowed her head in his other hand and carefully poured the clear liquid down her throat.
Katie sighed with satisfaction and closed her eyes. “Thanks Joey. Wait a minute.” Her eyes re-opened. “Joey, Mom said I’ve been like this for a week…” She swallowed. “Joey, what day is it?”
Katie puffed her lips and let out her breath. “I missed Christmas.”
Jerry tilted his head to the side. “I wouldn’t exactly say you missed Christmas.”
“What do you mean by that? Of course I missed Christmas!”
“Kate, you missed the holiday, that’s true. The official date, December 25, is past. But Christmas? Naw, you haven’t missed it.” Joey shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. “Christmas isn’t just about a date. It’s about Jesus being born here on earth so that he would grow into a Man that would save the world. Sure, you missed Monday. But that’s all. Christmas is something we should celebrate year-round; why not do it slightly off-schedule?”
Katie smiled. “I… suppose… that’s true. But we’ll have to wait… a little longer.”
Joey nodded and sighed, staring down at his metal-clad legs. “Yep. When Jerry ran inside, I was so afraid…” He paused and looked up. “So afraid that I’d not only lose my nephew, but my sister and fiancée as well. You really had me worried, Kate.” He sighed. “But Isaac… Kate, pray. Jerry and Martha are taking this so hard. Jerry feels responsible somehow, and as his twin, that makes me hurt even more.”
Katie nodded. “I’ll pray, Joey.”
“I’ll let you get to sleep.” Joey slowly stood up, leaning heavily on his crutches. He sighed. “If Isaac dies, I don’t want to know what this will do to Jerry and Martha…” his voice trailed off.
Katie nodded and closed her eyes. She understood. God, be with Jerry and Martha, she prayed silently. Help them see that You are in control of all things… she drifted to sleep without finishing her prayer.
“O come, all ye faithful…” Katie opened her eyes the next morning and smiled, listening to Hope and Mom sing in the kitchen while making breakfast. She heard the clatter of silverware and plates, the sizzling of eggs on the stove. Suddenly their song was interrupted by the ring of the telephone.
“Hello?” She heard Mom say. The rest of the phone call was lost to Katie’s ears, and she didn’t think anything of it until Mom entered the room with tears streaming down her face.
“Mom… what is it?” Katie felt the blood drain from her face.
Mom sat down beside the bed. “That was Jerry on the phone just now.”
Oh no. God, please, no, no, this can’t be happening! “Oh, Mom…” Katie’s eyes filled and spilled over.
Mom wrapped her arms around Katie. “Hush, child, everything will be okay.”
“Mom, I loved that boy so much; we all did. How can you say everything will be okay?” Katie wailed.
Mom pulled back and shook her head. “No, Katie, you don’t understand. Jerry called to say that Isaac woke up this morning, and he’s going to be all right!” She smiled. “Katie, my tears are tears of joy. My grandbaby is going to be all right!” She laughed, and fresh tears ran down her cheeks.
Katie’s eyes widened. “Isaac’s all right,” she whispered. “He’s gonna be okay.” she closed her eyes and rocked back and forth. “Oh, thank You God. Thank You, thank You…” she whispered over and over.
A few days later Katie was able to stand and, with Jerry’s help, slowly made her way downstairs.
“Ahhh, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it up the stairs!” Katie exclaimed, flopping onto the sofa.
Mom smiled. “We’ll make you a bed right here if need be. I’m just so happy that you were able to be with us today after all.” She looked fondly at Isaac, cuddled on his mother’s lap. “We’re all here, all a family once again.” She sighed and exchanged a glance with Jerry. “Even if my husband isn’t here to share this special Christmas with us.”
All was silent, save for the merry crackling of the fire in the hearth, and the soft sounds of Isaac’s slumber.
Finally Joey spoke. “Well, everyone, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some presents!” This made everyone laugh, and he wheeled his chair to the brightly decorated Christmas tree. “Who’s first?”
Jason waved his hand wildly in the air from where he sat on Jerry’s lap, then squirmed off and ran to Hope. “I wanna sit on your lap, Hope,” he said in his sweet voice.
“Well, be my guest!” Hope lifted the boy and plopped him onto her lap. When Joey handed Jason a small box wrapped in shiny red and green striped wrapping paper, she helped him tear the paper off.
“This is from your uncle Joey,” she explained.
Jason, guided by Hope’s fingers, opened the box and pulled out a piece of paper with writing on it. Jason’s face fell, until he heard Hope whisper,
“Go look in your grandma’s bedroom, on top of the bed, Jason.”
The little boy dashed out of the room. A few seconds later they could hear him shouting in delight, “A rocking horse! A pretty little rocking horse, all my own!” He ran back into the room and took a flying leap into Joey’s lap, which caused the chair to roll backwards a few feet, wrapping his little arms around his uncle. “Thank you, Uncle Joey!”
Joey laughed and returned the hug. “You’re very welcome, Jason. I made it myself, you know, just like I made your brother’s.”
Jason looked seriously into Joey’s face. “Are you God, Uncle Joey?”
Joey shook his head, frowning in confusion. “No, of course I’m not; whatever gave you that idea?”
“Well, Mommy says that God is the Master Carpenter, so I was just wondering.”
Everyone burst out laughing. Jason, not sure why everyone was laughing but not wanting to be left out, guffawed loudly. This woke Isaac, and he sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“Did you give Jason his rocking horse, Uncle Joey?”
Joey nodded. “Yes, I did, and you kept the secret very well.” He winked at Isaac.
Jason folded his arms in a pout. “You told Isaac a secret and you didn’t tell me,” he huffed.
“But if you would have known Jason,” Isaac explained patiently, “then your present wouldn’t have been a surprise!”
Jason tilted his head and puckered his lips in thought. Finally, he nodded with great finality. “This is true; I guess it’s all right this once.” He hopped off Joey’s lap and ran to his father. “Daddy,” he said, pulling on his father’s arm, “Will you bring my rocking horse over here?”
Jerry grinned and ruffled Jason’s hair, then stood up. “Lead the way, Little Mister!”
Mom sighed, tears in her eyes as she watched the two exit the room hand-in-hand. “They remind me so much of when you were little,” she said to Joey. “Your father would hold your hands just like that.” She smiled slightly and sighed. “Oh, Isaac was wonderful with children.”
Isaac grinned. “Thanks, Grandma.”
“No, dear.” Mrs. Judson chuckled. “I was talking about your grandpa. You were named after him, you know.”
“And that’s quite a compliment,” Joey added, grinning.
Isaac’s eyes widened, and he sat up proudly. “I wanna be just like Grandpa when I grow up.”
Katie smiled. She felt that this day couldn’t get any more perfect. I’ve gotten so many gifts this year, she thought contentedly. And they’re not under the tree; the family is gathered here, Isaac is on the mend, and, she smiled at the couple sitting close together, holding hands, the family is growing. Her thoughts turned to a prayer. Thank you, God, for giving me so much to be thankful for.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.