I awoke to a picture-perfect Christmas. The world glistened under a blanket of sparkling white snow.
The bad news. I had duty with the volunteer ambulance service that day. When my EMT neighbor discovered I was an RN, he talked me into joining his team. I never envisioned how my commitment might inconvenience my family.
Our children, still in their fuzzy new pajamas, clamored to open Christmas presents.
I hugged them. “I’m so sorry. I need you to help your dad and me shovel snow from our driveway. I’m on ambulance-call today and can’t get the car out.”
We bundled up, grabbed shovels, and cleared snow from the garage to the street.
Then we devoured steaming hot chocolate and hearty breakfast casserole. We opened gifts amid laughter in a room strewn with bright paper and ribbons.
At noon, my portable alarm’s shrill signal went off. I grabbed my red jacket and raced to the car. “Sorry to abandon you on Christmas Day,” I called. I really was.
As I rushed to the ambulance garage, I prayed, “Lord, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t know you were with me. Give me your wisdom. Enable me to be your servant to this one in need.”
I quickly boarded the ambulance. My two experienced team members waited. “This is a transportation call.”
I was relieved we weren’t heading to an accident scene.
A frightened teenage girl welcomed us. “My dad is at the end of the hall.” She wiped away tears.
A frail man lay on the bed. The unmistakable odor of terminal cancer filled the room.
We gently lifted him onto the stretcher. While my co-workers moved him into the ambulance, I comforted his anxious daughter, giving her a small blue New Testament. “This contains God’s love letters for you. Inside is a list of special passages to comfort you.” She offered a weak smile. I knew I had just given her a fitting Christmas gift. I hugged and assured her, “We’ll take good care of your father.”
With the stretcher secured in the back of the ambulance, my partner moved to ride with the driver. Strange. I was alone with the patient.
The father’s face revealed his pain and defeat. I prayed silently while we rode to the hospital.
My partner called, “Is everything OK back there?”
“Just fine,” I answered.
I discovered the man was only 51 years old. “Are you a Christian?” I asked.
I asked him if he knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.
He smiled faintly and whispered, “Yes.”
Now I knew why I was alone with him. From the small white New Testament I carried in my pocket, I read the twenty-third psalm to him. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . . even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I held his hand while I prayed for him and his family. I reminded him of God’s promise to never leave him or his family. A peaceful expression appeared on his weary face. When I placed my New Testament in his hand, he closed his fingers firmly around it. Another perfect Christmas gift.
After the fragile father was admitted to the emergency room, we returned to clean up our van.
“How could you stand that odor?” my partner asked. “I knew I’d be sick if I remained in back. I’m sorry I deserted you.”
“I was so concerned for that poor man and his frightened daughter, I forgot to notice,” I replied.
Driving home from the ambulance garage, I gazed at the peaceful, sparkling-white landscape. Had my inconvenient absence from the family spoiled their Christmas Day?
When I turned into my driveway at home, a giant snowman with a red scarf and an orange carrot nose greeted me. Flames flickered in the fireplace.