A Cherished Gift from God
Author: Karen DeLoach as told by Donna Williams

The numbers on the face of my radio clock flipped to 7:00, and a woman’s voice penetrated my sleep. She announced her plans to deliver teddy bears to children in the hospital for Christmas.

Memories flooded my mind of holidays when I was a child … fruit at Thanksgiving … candy at Christmas. I remember those days well, I mused.

As a little girl, I spent most of my pre-holiday time in the children’s ward at Bethesda Naval Hospital. By enduring procedures right before a holiday, my little body had time to recuperate while school was out for vacation. Having been born with a congenital heart defect, I spent a lot of time in different hospitals, but holidays were reserved for Bethesda.

Christmas time was made special because of visitors like the lady on the radio, and because anyone who could “make it” through the holidays was allowed to go home. As Christmas Day neared, children left one by one, rolled out on beds or in wheel chairs. I often wondered what happened to the children who had to stay. They wouldn’t be there the next Christmas.

Except for Cathy. I met Cathy the first time I went to Bethesda. We were both in the first grade. Cathy was extraordinary! A beautiful little girl with long, coal black hair and the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen, she was assigned the third bed on the right side of the ward, and I had the bed across from her.

Cathy was a ray of sunshine, forever smiling. Her laugh was light and airy, and often her clear, high voice could be heard throughout the ward as she sang her favorite songs. She overflowed with a sweet spirit of love, which endeared her to patients and caregivers alike.

Although she was bubbly during the day, at night the oxygen tent went up. Cathy was in the early stages of a respiratory disease. I lay awake at night listening as she struggled to breathe.

That first year, before leaving the hospital, I asked Cathy’s mother, “Is Cathy going home for Christmas, too?”

“Not this time,” she answered. “Maybe next year we’ll have a good Christmas.”

But that day never came. As time passed, Cathy grew worse every time I saw her. Eventually, she had to spend most of her days in the oxygen tent, too. But she kept her smile. Her favorite game was checkers, and we played it together as she lay inside her tent.

One Christmas, Cathy didn’t come out of the oxygen tent at all. She didn’t laugh or talk. The joy her family had exuded was gone, replaced by a cloak of heavy sadness. I overheard a nurse say, “I wonder if the poor little thing will make it to Christmas.”

I strained to hear Cathy’s familiar struggle for breath. I only heard the steady hum of machines. I didn’t want to go home. I was afraid to leave Cathy. The night before I was scheduled to leave, I developed a fever. “Thank you, Lord! Now, I can stay!”

On Christmas Eve night, I awoke and sat up in bed. Everyone had gone home except Cathy and me. The hospital was quiet with only a dim light shining softly in the hall. I went to the bathroom and as I walked back into our room, Cathy suddenly stood before me, looking as beautiful as ever. It was as if she had just popped out of the oxygen tent. She giggled, and I was so startled, I almost fainted!

She held up the checkerboard. “You want to play?”

We played all night long! We giggled, danced, held hands, and sang. Now and then, Cathy ran to the door and peeked out at the nurse’s station. “Sh-h-h,” I said, “they’ll hear us.” Once, she went out into the middle of the hall, threw her arms into the air, and twirled round and round.

That night was the happiest time of all my childhood days. We were surrounded by peace and joy and love.

I don’t remember when I went to bed, but the next morning I jumped up, eager to see Cathy. I just knew she was well. Her mother sat next to her bed as Cathy slept. I ran over and said, “I’m sure she’s just tired this morning. We played all night long.”

Cathy’s mother put her hand on my shoulder. “Honey,” she said softly, “it was just a dream. Cathy couldn’t have played with you.”

No one believed me. I didn’t completely understand it, but I knew it hadn’t been a dream.

I left Bethesda that day, never to return. My father was transferred to San Antonio, so I went to another hospital. Several years later, my mom and I ran into Cathy’s mother at a store in San Antonio. No, Cathy was not with her. She died shortly after that Christmas Eve night when we played together for the last time. Now, every time I hear of holiday gifts being collected for children in the hospital, I think of the special gift God gave to Cathy and me.

Eventually, as I grew spiritually in Christ, He showed me the scripture in Matthew 13:16-17, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears for they hear. For assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.”

I believe that verse was His assurance to me that, indeed, it had not been a dream. The Lord allowed Cathy’s spirit and my spirit to play together. For me, it was a glimpse into the spiritual world, a cherished gift from God. For Cathy, He filled her life with His presence from the day she was born.

And, in the end, He gave her the most precious gift of all – He took her home!

(A note about Donna: Donna may have had a "defective" heart — but it was HUGE. She was a kind, giving person who loved to help other people in spite of her life-long battle with heart problems, as well as a struggle with cancer, including a mastectomy. She worked with her husband in their business and was the mother of two teenage sons. Although strong spiritually, her heart finally gave in, and she went to be with the Lord two years ago. I’m sure she looked for Cathy as soon as she arrived in heaven!) -Karen DeLoach

“Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” -Psalms 33:3

Source : Sherry’s Inspirational