The stage was set. The orchestra was preparing their instruments and making last minute notations and mental notes. The buzz of the beautifully decorated sanctuary was typical of a Christmas choir concert. Parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers...everyone was smiling and getting their cameras and phone cameras ready; to capture the cute moments, the proud moments, and the funny moments of what would happen on the stage last night. Everyone was trying to find the perfect seat to view their loved ones. The lights were set all around the room in hues of blue and purple, creating a very calm and serene atmosphere. The lights from the tall Christmas trees that flanked both sides of the stage, and the garland that hung from the balcony, beckoned me to share in the "Christmas spirit" that filled the room. And I was trying, I really was.
I was in the front row; not because I was anyone special, or had paid to sit there. Rather, it was to be as close to my daughter as possible, should she need to leave the stage at any given moment during the performance. My husband and oldest daughter were in the balcony above me so they could get some good pictures, but mostly because I didn't know if there would be any open seats next to where my daughter's teacher had asked me to sit. I ended up alone in that front row, except for a couple who wanted to have the best seats to view their son, and were actually slightly obnoxious about it. They must have moved up and down that row three times, trying to get the perfect view of their son. There's always that "one parent." I've been that parent. But, not last night.
The orchestra was on the same level as the front row, the musicians and their instruments not two feet in front of me. The woman whose instruments included a xylophone and a large cymbal was kind enough to warn me that she would be using that cymbal at frequent points throughout the performance. It was very kind of her. Once I saw that there were open seats down the row from that cymbal, where I was actually closer to the end of the stage, I moved down. I honestly don't think I could have handled that clanging cymbal being right in front of me; not with all the noise that was already clamoring around in my head, and in my heart. After I changed seats, I ended up with a clear view of my girl. The perfect seat.
She came onto the stage in her usual way, smiling, and just a little bit nervous. But I knew what was behind that smile. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Dizziness. Pain. You see, up until 25 minutes before we were supposed to get in the car, I wasn't even sure if she was going to be able to go, let alone get on stage and perform with her class. Without going into every detail of what my daughter has been struggling with, I will just tell you that it's been a tremendous burden for a child to carry; a body she can't control, a respiratory tic that causes her arms, torso, neck, and face to seize up several times in a row, shooting pain that comes like arrows into various parts of her body, without warning, and the dizziness that is a constant companion these days. Too much. Just. too. much. And she was smiling.
She stood on that stage and sang her heart out for all four of the songs they were to perform. Her tic was in full force. She glanced at me every so often and I smiled brightly every time. It was the only way to hide the tears that were falling onto my cheeks like relentless water drops from a leaking roof. I couldn't stop them, as much as I tried to brush them away. But I only wanted her to see my smile, reassuring her that she was amazing and brave, because she is. I was caught between the words of the songs the choir was singing, the sheer fact that my daughter was on stage singing in spite of her pain, and the overwhelming sense of a feeling I can't even use words to describe. I can only tell you that it came from the deepest part of this mother's heart; the part that somehow connects to the pit of your stomach, as well as to your spirit. The part that has all five of your senses on high alert, waiting...for what? I didn't know. I wasn't filled with fear, more of a readiness to jump into action if it became necessary. I am forever grateful that it didn't.
The last three months have been filled with doctors, paramedics, ambulances, hospitals, more doctors, and specialists, all trying to give us answers. While we do have a few, we don't have "the one" that we need. That final puzzle piece. OK, back to last night...
When my daughter was done singing and her class exited the stage, it was everything I could do to stay in my seat and not run after her to make sure she was OK. I knew she was dizzy because I could see her stumble as she was about to go down the steps. However, I knew her teacher and her friends would be waiting for her, along with a snack and some water. So, I stayed. I laughed at the videos of the kids telling about their favorite parts of Christmas, trying to name all the reindeer, and some Christmas trivia questions. So cute. I cried when the adult choir sang, "O Holy Night," my very favorite Christmas song. I watched the most cheerful and dynamic choir conductor I'd ever seen in my life. Truth be told, aside from watching my daughter become my hero, he was the best part of the night, for me. On normal occasions, I am sitting in what I think is the perfect seat; center of the room, not too close to the stage but not too far away either. I usually only see the back of the conductor's head, but not his face. Not until the end, when they turn for a bow. Last night, I got to watch his face, just by glancing slightly to my right, in a non-obvious way. The sheer joy of leading this choir in the songs that glorified our reason for celebrating Christmas, Jesus, brought the first bit of joy into my heart since the holiday season began. Praise God.
I needed that. I needed to be reminded of the joy that is the Christmas season. My Savior, Jesus. The One who knows my every need. The one who sees my daughter and knows exactly how to "fix" her. The one who is three persons; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Healer. Comforter. Provider. Love. It wasn't the lights of the Christmas trees or the garland that lit up my heart last night. It was the light of Jesus shining through his people as they sang praises. It was the light in my daughter's eyes as she looked at me one last time before she left the stage, as if to say, "I did it, Mom!" Oh, my heart. It was left right there on that stage. Right there on the front row in my perfect seat. Perfect, because it gave me the full picture of what my daughter went through as she was singing. Perfect, because it gave me a chance to view a typical Christmas concert in a very non-typical way. Perfect, because it opened my eyes to see not just a performance, but the people in it. Up close and personal; joy on some faces, sorrow on others. Broken hearts behind some smiles, like mine. Yet, still on that stage, in spite of whatever was causing the light in their eyes to be a little more dim last night. Bravery. Commitment. Hope.
No matter what you are facing this Christmas season, know this. Jesus came to this earth for you. For you. If you were the only one alive on the earth, he still would have come, for you! The trees and lights are nice. The stockings and cookies and egg nog are festive and comforting. The gifts are surprising and fun, or not so much. But none of it matters when your heart is breaking. None of it matters when you're grieving. None of it matters when you feel like you're living in a dense fog and every day is the same thing, over and over and over again. The only thing that truly matters is that Jesus is with you. Emmanuel, God WITH us! He is the reason why we sing. Jesus is the reason we celebrate. Let's not forget that this year, or any year.
I won't soon forget last night. The night I had the perfect seat.