i ended up getting an advent calendar going on December 3rd or so. And yesterday, after three weeks of checking it everyday, River went unprompted and opened it up and looked at that curled-up slip of paper like he could read. it was so cute and made me smile and so happy that we had started this tradition.
we have had fun doing all kinds of to share the joy of jesus. i asked my wonderful mother-in-law, Sherril, to record the story of why we go to the hospital every Christmas Eve...one of the very best traditions we have.
In December 1981, Carlye was 2 ½ years old and George was 9 months old. George had been sick with the flu for a couple of days, then he was hospitalized on Dec. 22nd. He was dehydrated and had to have IV fluids. He kept getting sicker even with the IV. He had thrown up so much that putting the bottle to his lips would cause him to throw up again. The diarrhea was so often that the nurses did not want us to put a diaper on him, just a disposable pad under him and the fever continued. He had gone from being a crawling, standing, happy, jabbering little boy to a baby just lying still on the bed. I never left his side.
Pete & Carlye both got sick after George went to the hospital. They were at home with Carlye throwing up and having 104 fever. Pete was throwing up and had fever too but was still taking good care of Carlye. I couldn’t help them because I couldn’t leave George. Pete & I would talk and pray together on the phone.
On Christmas Eve, the doctor came in and examined George. He asked me to sit down so that we could talk. He said that there was nothing else that he could do. He told me that George was losing fluids faster than the IV could get them into his body. He said that if he wasn’t better by morning that they would care flight him to the Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth. I said “Well, let’s go now. If there is something they can do there, then let’s go!” The doctor told me that they wouldn‘t be able to help him either, but they had a pediatric ICU. The only thing that any of us could do is pray.
The hospital had been a very cheerful place during the days before Christmas. There were lots of decorations and people coming and going everywhere. But in the evening on Christmas Eve, they sent home every patient that could possibly go and cut the nursing staff back to a skeleton crew so that as many people as possible could go home for Christmas. On Christmas Eve night, only the sickest patients were left and the hospital was very quiet and depressing. I was sitting by George’s bed praying when a nurse came in and gave me a little bottle of hand lotion with a bow on it. It had a note with it but no name. It was from a Mom whose child had been in the hospital on the Christmas Eve the year before and she just wanted me to know that she knew how I felt. I started crying. It really touched my heart that some Mom knew I was there and was thinking about us. It was then that I told Jesus that I would be at the hospital on Christmas Eve next year.
I prayed all night. I fell asleep with my arms and head leaning against the rail on the baby bed. I woke up the next morning because George was standing up in the bed, hitting me on the head, and saying “Ma Ma, Ma Ma”. I was so excited! His fever was gone, the diarrhea and vomiting had stopped, and he was well! After holding, hugging and kissing George, I called Pete to tell him the great news and found out that he and Carlye were better too. That was the best Christmas ever!
The next year on Christmas Eve, I was pregnant with Val. After we had gotten the kids to bed, Pete stayed home with them while I went to the hospital. I took magazines to the Moms in Pediatrics and visited with each of them. For the next couple of years on Christmas Eve, we would put the kids to bed, Pete would stay home with them and I would go to the hospital. I started calling the hospital ahead of time to see how many patients were there and took little books to the children and magazines to the Moms. Then when Valerie was about 3 years old, Pete & I started taking them with us. Our children would sing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” or “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to the sick children and their parents.
Our tradition gradually grew over the years. We now have one of our guys dress as Santa Clause, we take big Teddy Bears to all the children, we pass out about 200 candy canes, we visit all the patients in the whole hospital and visit all the nurses stations. We sing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to all the staff and patients. Now our children are all grown, married and have children of their own and they continue the Berre Family Christmas Eve Tradition.