Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there
How can it be that after 10 months of daily crying and grieving that there are still whole areas of grief and loss that I haven’t even begun to address? All that it takes is some wee trigger and the floodgates of my emotions are thrown open.
Tonight at Girl’s Brigade the children were singing Christmas songs. This was the first time this year that I had heard any Christmas carols. It felt like a painful wound had been suddenly opened.
Last year our Christmas came to an unexpected and very painful end. On Friday 27th December I left the house at 8am with Rachel and Leah to drive to Belfast to take Leah to her regular weekly appointment at Belfast City Hospital.
We were all in good form because that night we were going to a big family get together in Donegal – our first since going to Bristol in July for Leah’s bone marrow transplant. Leah’s consultant had given her permission to go to the party.
My sister was flying in from London and was meeting us at the City Hospital. Leah’s boyfriend had been in England over Christmas and he was flying back that day in time for the party too. Leah was so excited.
By late afternoon Leah’s two aunties, her boyfriend and his mother had all congregated at the City Hospital. Sadly they all, along with Rachel, had to leave the hospital without us. Our Christmas celebrations had ended.
I eventually returned home on Thursday 16th January. I gathered up Leah’s Christmas presents, the packaging, the Christmas paper, cards, selection boxes and her unopened birthday presents and made room for her coffin.
Although “Away in a Manger” made me cry tonight – the words are also very beautiful. They tell the story of that first Christmas when Jesus – our saviour – came to earth as a baby. The carol finishes with a prayer that all of God’s children be made fit for heaven to live with Him there.
When Leah was three years old she asked Jesus to forgive her sins and to live in her heart as Lord and Saviour. Through her daily walk with God, through attending Church and faith based organisations – including Girl’s Brigade – Leah grew in her knowledge and understanding of God.
The peace and serenity with which Leah could face death leaves me in no doubt that the last verse of “Away in a Manger” is true of her. That assurance, despite all my tears and sadness, brings me great comfort.