The doctor's words were a shock: "She could be like this for three months or more." I grabbed her foot, shaking vigorously, saying, "Aimee, you have to wake up!" But the ventilator continued breathing for her. Her eyes remained closed; her arms and legs were still. The coma continued its grip.
Three days earlier a drunken driver hit my daughter head-on. She was on her way to a voice lesson; he was on his way home after celebrating his plant shutdown for Christmas. How could this happen? Much less happen at Christmas? How could the rest of the family celebrate the birth of Christ while Aimee flirted with death?
Nine days flew by, timed by the ventilator's whooshing tick, and Christmas was tomorrow. Her condition remained the same.
It was customary for our musical family to perform a concert for relatives on Christmas Day. We wondered if this year we would continue to live out our faith through music. Could we make joyful sounds without Aimee?
I'm not sure our concerts gave joy to the relatives every year, but they were a treat for us. There was joy in picking hymns and songs that each child's level of musical training could manage. We had fun practicing and making programs. Our concerts certainly had spirit even if they didn't always flow smoothly.
Last spring in The Lutheran, Mark S. Hanson, then ELCA presiding bishop, wrote about music. He quoted Martin Luther, who spoke of music as a "lovely gift ..., a precious, worthy and costly treasure given by God to humankind." Hanson said God's relationship with us is more than an intellectual experience. Music can be a means of bridging this relationship between God, our spirits, our emotions and our brains.
But back to our story. Even if Aimee was off in a place we couldn't reach, we wanted her with us for this annual experience. We decided to bring the concert to her. But our music might disturb the quiet of the intensive care unit. Would the hospital gatekeepers allow us to do the unconventional? Yes.
Late on Christmas Eve we had our concert. It was more for Aimee than a concert with Aimee. Despite heavy hearts we proclaimed through music God's entrance into this fallen world and the hope Jesus brings. In faith, we sang of joy and life. We refused to let the ventilator set the meter for the music.
When the concert was over, I bent over Aimee for a good night kiss. Her head moved and her eyelids twitched. Those eyes — unseen for nine days — fluttered open. When I spoke she turned in my direction. The coma was being defeated.
Was it the music, prayers, faith or family? Or all of these? No matter what, it was God. It was Christmas. Emmanuel. God come to us.
Joy to the world.
Editor's note: After eight years of hard work, Aimee last May graduated from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., with a degree in wildlife biology. Doctors initially thought she would never return to high school because of her traumatic brain injury. Her mother says, "She is a remarkable young Christian woman who serves a remarkable God, and is where she is due to grace and grace alone."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers