A Happy Series of Blessed Events
Heaven and earth rejoiced over the new “Guggenberger” family. For it was now known that Kurt and Anne Marie had entered into a covenant with God and with one another. By their wedding vows, their own will was now intimately tied up with God’s will in a three-ply cord. And, as the Scriptures tell it, “a three-ply cord is not easily broken” (Eccl 4:12).
There were many happy days for Kurt and Anne Marie. One by one, the babies came. First, a son was born, then a daughter, and then another daughter, all growing together, with their faithful dog, in the little house in the forest. The years passed until another blessed event occurred a little more than one year ago.
Along came the fourth child, who would be known from his birth as the “Guggenbergers' Will,” but since his baptism as “God's Will.”
Now the man and the woman knew God and His love, and raised their children in His sight. Each Advent, they prepared to celebrate the coming of God’s Holy Child at Christmas. But this season held a special blessing as they delighted in their newborn son.
The Guggenberger children were to take part in the Nativity play at their local church, re-enacting the Christmas story, dressed as angels and shepherds. This year little Will would have the honor of being Baby Jesus.
Through the Dark Valley
In the weeks before Christmas, for reasons mere mortals cannot fathom, God gave this family, and all who knew them, another story to witness. For in the days before the Nativity play, baby Will was stricken with a serious illness that threatened his very life.
A hospital stay was ordered for Will, with mother and father staying by his side. The best doctors and nurses in the city cared for him, a baby so sick that he could not even eat. Eventually, Will could no longer breathe on his own. And all modern technology was summoned for the sake of this tiny soul, including a respirator to breathe for his tired little body, now asleep in a drug-induced coma. And word went forth from the hospital, asking all to lift prayers to heaven on Will’s behalf.
Outside, snowflakes were falling, holiday decorating was in full swing, and traffic clogged the malls. The Christmas “rush” descended upon the world. Inside Will’s hospital room, there was a quiet “hush” as his respirator breathed in and out.
And all manner of prayers were prayed for Will: Masses, prayer chains, novenas and rosaries.
Captivated by news of Will, the arms of the local church community encircled this family like a giant hug. Neighbors and church folk cooked and cleaned, baked and decorated, prayed and prayed some more. It was love-in-action, as it should be, as Will’s grandparents and relatives cared for his siblings, and his parents stayed at the hospital.
And God used Will's purest little soul to touch the hearts of those who knew him, and even some who didn't. And even those who did not know God very well, because they knew Will, or heard his story, started to talk to God about Will. For word of his illness had spread far and wide.
Christmas was only days away. And lo, the days of Will’s stillness on the respirator passed by slowly.
And slowly, despite circumstances, Will’s parents understood something unexplainable about the will of God. And others, who watched and waited, began to understand too. Of all the gifts being sought for Christmas, only one really mattered.
‘Tis the Season for Miracles
A small miracle was taking place in the hearts of all who prayed for this baby. Grown-ups and children alike began to see little Will, as their Christ Child this season even if he missed his starring role in the Nativity play. They remembered that Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God-with-us.” And He was present with this modern holy family, not in Bethlehem but in Boston, gathered around Will, who God-was-with.
For God was using “a little child to lead them” to prayer, to love of neighbor, and to the deepest truth about Christmas: that God is with us, even when we don't feel it. Even when a child in a crib is surrounded by fearsome circumstances just like the Child Jesus was.
An understudy was needed for the church Nativity play. Meanwhile, at the hospital, a modern Christmas story was emerging: in the company of angels, a helpless infant lay quietly in a metal “manger” in an urban “stable,” surrounded by twinkling “stars” of technology and “choirs” of machines. The “shepherds” who kept watch wore scrubs and stethoscopes, while “kingly visitors” bore gifts of medications and treatments.
For those who doubt, God’s will is never quite what they expect. But believers will tell you that God’s will is often better than they expect. And in the end, the same God who authored the first Christmas story proves that His timing is best.
And so, it came to pass, that on Christmas morning, the respirator was removed and Will began to breathe on his own again! The gift that so many had prayed for a gift both priceless and profound was received at once by the one and the many. This was indeed good news of great joy.
Days later, Will was welcomed home, and loved by his overjoyed family, not to mention his church community where he still lives today, happily ever after.
Author’s note: This story is the true story of Will Guggenberger, a healthy 4-month-old infant who was hospitalized at Children’s Hospital Boston for 23 days in late 2004 with extreme complications stemming from a severe case of the common virus known as RSV. His name and his family’s names are used with permission.
For more details about RSV and its risks for infants, go to www.thrive-network.com.
©2005 Patricia W. Gohn
Pat Gohn has been married to Bob for 23 years and has three children. Known to her friends as “majoring in carpooling and minoring in theology,” she is currently pursuing a Master's in Theology. She lives in Massachusetts and can be reached at email@example.com. Her monthly column, “Ordinary Time,” appears at www.catholicmom.com.