A perfectly decorated tree, Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background, egg nog and hot chocolate, the family gathered together to exchange beautifully wrapped presents with no visions of credit card bills dancing in their heads. This is what I call my "Norman Rockwell" fantasy. I have it every year when I start making Christmas plans. This will be the year that it actually happens. This will be the year with no scheduling conflicts or atrocious grocery bills. THIS will be the year that my fantasy comes true and we have the "perfect Christmas". When it doesn't happen, I'm momentarily crushed and vow to try harder next year.
But this year is different. This year, instead of worrying about finding the perfect gift or how many pies to make, I'm helping plan a benefit for a friend who is spending her Christmas season in the hospital. Kari is a 32-year-old foster-mother of two boys. In May, she and her husband sold their business. Kari had plans to spend the summer at home with her boys, then start job-hunting after school started. Instead, within a few weeks, she was diagnosed with kidney failure due to diabetes, and contemplating a transplant. Her fun summer changed to a string of doctor appointments and hospital stays. An infection lead to more complications, more hospital stays, extreme pain, confinement to a wheelchair and, finally, 42 hours in a coma. While I was searching for deals on Black Friday, she was having a nerve biopsy. While I decorated the tree, she struggled through physical therapy.
Tonight, several hundred people will gather to throw a party and raise money - not for Christmas gifts or lavish meals - but for hospital bills, medications, and home health care. Friends and family will sacrifice a portion of their Christmas budget to give Kari a chance for more Christmases. My Norman Rockwell picture has faded this year, and in it's place is a vision of Tiny Tim - "God Bless us, every one."