Aside from Christmas day itself, today is the easiest time I’ll have focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. You see, Christmas is a story about a miracle. And unless you’ve witnessed a miracle, they are sometimes hard to believe in. Six years ago today Katie and I were blessed to witness our own miracle – Elliott’s birth. Every morning that child rises and stumbles his way through the house to find me, I witness that miracle all over again.
A couple of years ago I wrote the following post, which includes a letter I wrote to Pitt Memorial Hospital. I can’t write a more appropriate post for today, so I won’t try.
To Whom It May Concern:
As the holiday season is once again upon me, I am reminded of how grateful I am for your hospital.
On December 18, 2006, my first born child, Elliott Thomas Cartwright, was rushed by air ambulance to Pitt Memorial Hospital’s NICU. He was born in Carteret General Hospital with what the doctor called “little more than a heartbeat.” It was a traumatic delivery for my wife and son.
When the transport team arrived at Carteret General, they worked with the doctor hand in hand to save my son and prepare him for his trip to Greenville. That transport team worked on my son like he was their son. When he was ready to leave, they wheeled him into my wife’s recovery room so she could get a glimpse of the boy she had carried for nine months. They did so with such compassion and understanding. As they wheeled him away, none of us had much certainty about his future.
I then left my wife’s side and went to Greenville to be with Elliott. Many prayers were answered when, upon my arrival, the first nurse that greeted me in the NICU informed me that Elliott was going to be “just fine.” The tears that had been building up all day spilled out. I don’t remember that nurse’s name, but I can still feel her heart as she gave me my minute to feel relieved.
I came to know that heart very well over the next week. From the staff working the reception desks, to the folks that went out of their way to make sure we had a place to stay while we were there, to every single nurse and doctor and administrator that touched my son and my family, they all looked and sounded different, but they all seemed to operate from the same compassionate and caring heart.
We took my son home on Christmas Eve in 2006. On this Christmas Eve, 2010, I will sit and hold my now 4 year old son. As I do, the same tear may sneak up on me that has snuck up on me many nights since you all poured your heart into saving a father’s son. And when it does, I will once again thank God for my chance to hold my son one more day, and I will once again ask God’s blessing on your hospital, and on the loving hearts of those who serve it.
I guess I thought the tears would have stopped by now. But with the addition of our beautiful baby Ian, they've actually doubled.
The tears are different. They're no longer those large, uncontrollable tears of relief, but tears do still sneak up on me.
They are tears that recognize the two miracles that Katie and I share every day, and the absolute certainty that they are God's miracles.
They are tears that recognize just how much we want to protect those miracles, and just how helpless we are to do so outside of the hands of God.
They are tears of honor towards the God that has trusted us to raise two of his children.
And at Christmas time, I can't help but share those tears with another earthly father who was trusted by God to raise one of his children - his only begotten son. I think of Joseph and how he too must have shed tears as he began to understand the magnitude of what God had trusted him to do. I can't imagine the pressure he felt to be a good earthly father, and the pain he must have felt as he considered the fate of that little baby.
I thank God for his trust in Joseph. I thank God for his trust in us.
With that, I think you'll understand why I appreciate the following song. I think you'll understand the tears: