Beth Dayley, “Christmas Bells through the Fog,” Ensign, Dec. 2001, 58–59
Christmas morning dawned on a day as murky as my mood. A dense fog had crept into the Italian city where we were living because of my husband’s military assignment. My two daughters were not very excited about the few gifts they had received. Their thoughts, like mine, were with their father, who was in a military hospital in Germany.
“It doesn’t seem like Christmas without Daddy here,” eight-year-old Diana commented. I nodded, thinking about all the seasonal cheer we were missing—decorations, family parties, holiday feasts.
“Well, at least some of us are together,” said 17-year-old Athena quietly.
When my husband called from the hospital in Germany, I talked to him briefly and then handed the phone to Diana. To my surprise, she refused to speak to him, even though she hadn’t seen or talked to him in weeks. Confused by her reaction, I ran the events of the past month through my mind.
Some weeks earlier my husband, Ed, had begun complaining of pain in his left forearm. In no time it swelled and became stiff. The doctors hospitalized him and gave him antibiotics intravenously. But his hand became useless.
Concerned, I hadn’t wanted to make any holiday plans; I was afraid what the next few weeks would hold. I finally made arrangements for our oldest son to stay with his grandmother instead of coming home from college. Our three other children tried to help me get ready for Christmas, but the spirit of the season could not penetrate my anxiety.
One night had been especially bad. I couldn’t sleep, so at 3:30 a.m. I called the hospital and asked about my husband. The nurse said he was in such pain he was pacing the floor. Suddenly I knew Ed needed a priesthood blessing. Since the hour was so early, I hesitated to call our home teacher, Bob DeWitt. But Bob arrived on his own before dawn.
“Mom, our home teacher is here,” Athena called out at about 5:00 a.m. Soon Bob called another priesthood holder and hurried to the hospital. He felt prompted to promise Ed he would eventually regain the full use of his hand.
Moments after Bob had left the hospital, a group of doctors conferred around Ed’s bed. They couldn’t explain what was causing the damage to his arm. Although in pain, Ed commented that it was too bad the X ray couldn’t show more than just the bone in his arm; it would help if they could see the tissue as well. Ed’s words startled the doctors, and they decided to use an ultrasound machine to look at his arm in a manner not commonly used. The procedure was later written up in medical journals.
Using the ultrasound in this new way, they located a large pocket of infection deep within Ed’s forearm. They operated immediately.
“It’s lucky we located the abscess when we did,” the surgeon had explained to me later. “Even a few more hours could have cost Ed the use of his arm completely. As it is, I doubt he will ever be able to use his fingers again.”
The doctors then transferred Ed to a large hospital in Germany, and I accompanied him while friends took care of our children. Ed’s condition became worse; the bone became infected, and antibiotics were unexplainably ineffective. Days went by in a blur as Ed underwent multiple surgeries. Suddenly I realized it was almost Christmas. Ed insisted I fly home to be with the children.
So here it was Christmas morning. I held my youngest daughter close, still not sure why she had refused to speak with her father on the phone. Finally she hesitantly took the phone, and within seconds, her face was wreathed in a smile.
“I thought Daddy was dying,” she explained later. “He was so sick when he left.”
As I sat quietly with my daughters, I smiled through my tears. Faintly, through the fog, the tolling of Christmas bells reached us. I reflected on the gift we commemorate each Christmas—our Savior who redeemed us from eternal death and made eternal families possible. I realized that through the Lord’s Atonement and the ordinances of the temple, we could be together forever.
Ed spent nine months in hospitals—and three long, difficult years passed before he recovered completely. But we never questioned that his priesthood blessing would be fulfilled or that our greatest blessings came through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I listened to the bells that Christmas morning in Italy, I finally welcomed Christmas into my heart.