A happy Christmas | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

A happy Christmas

He must have been around two years old. From the pale, thin, and wan look about him, plus the sparse hair that was a dead giveaway, one need not be a doctor to know that this little boy was seriously ill. He stood out because he was the only patient who had managed to break away from the crowd attending the thanksgiving Mass, and the only one wearing such an expression of longing on his face. His object of fascination: the ice cream cart.

As I pulled my gaze away, a sibling caught my eye and gave me that kind of look that clearly stated that it wouldn’t hurt to break the rules. Before I could formulate a quick action plan, I was called away to host the program. Later that evening, my sister brought him back into our conversation. She confessed to having caved in and had taken it upon herself to be his self-appointed fairy godmother. She was totally unprepared for what came after, for upon receipt of the ice cream cone, instead of indulging, he had gingerly held it in his two hands, much like an extremely precious and fragile gift, and spent a considerable time twirling around with it, up to a point wherein he was in danger of getting into a minor accident. About to issue a stern warning to be careful, she consciously refrained from doing so, having witnessed the look on his face. It would have been uncalled for to intrude, as it was such a joy to see such pure and unadulterated bliss. It has been two weeks since the event, and his attending doctors are all looking forward to granting his wish, to simply be able to spend Christmas at home. According to the resident, he had too much ice cream at the party and had a bad cough days after, which hampered an earlier discharge. Please do not blame it on the sugar feast. By now, we all have a fair idea of how one can get a respiratory infection, most especially if in an immunocompromised state.

In the last couple of days, memories of him have resurfaced, having temporarily been sidetracked into a state of physical idleness by a viral illness. Having nothing to do tends to push thoughts into overdrive. Reacquainting myself with his condition, I felt more than guilty to have even complained. What followed became an exercise in gratefulness, for having been blessed with the immeasurable gift of health. For even though my neck and back muscles were extremely stiff, my headache unrelenting, and my fingers close to arthritic, there was comfort to be derived from knowing that it was to be a self-limiting condition. All that was needed was to ensure that one had enough rest, adequate hydration, and sleep.

To better understand the depth of emotions felt, and put things into perspective, allow me to let you in on what he has. His condition is rare and from experience, diagnosis may be missed and overlooked if one is not too careful. It is more of a childhood affliction, has no definitive cure, can be refractory to treatment, may involve multiple organ systems, and constantly leaves one vulnerable to infections. Simply put, the future will always be uncertain and the prognosis is not too bright. If this is something that would not render a parent semi-paralyzed, let me not elaborate on the substantial financial burden that treatment entails. He comes from a family of meager means. If your most remote memory of life was at three, this little boy is barely of that age and already suffering from the complications of his disease.

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Knowing all these, you may then begin to understand the importance of why there is a need to learn and be grateful for every simple thing that life brings, good or bad. A newfound friend, a missionary nun, once said that we are undeserving of the blessings that we continuously receive and the only way to practice being thankful is to be a person who knows how to give back. In so doing, you get to influence the other to be a constant vessel of goodness from which people needing inspiration may draw.

No one expects a child of three to be capable of these realizations. I will never know what he was thinking when he was savoring and holding on to that ice cream cone, but it’s enough to know that he was extremely happy at that moment. There are many prayers interspersed with wishes in my head that I get to see him in the coming year. Maybe then he would be able to articulate at length how he must have felt and eventually show us how to be masters in the art of twirling.

Merry Christmas everyone. May you always be in the pink of health.

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