By Fr. John J. Chmil, Pastor, Saint Ann Catholic Church, 1220 Northway Road, Williamsport, PA 17701
Here is a story that shook my faith and made me look at life differently.
When I was five years old, I had my tonsils removed. The day before my surgery, I shared a room with a boy named Stephen, who was also five years old. We took a fire truck and race cars into the hallway of the hospital and had fun playing together. We also laughed a lot. I felt like Stephen was my brother.
Before I went to bed that night, I knocked on the glass window that was between Stephen’s bed and my bed. We waved to each other and said goodnight.
In the morning, my mom and dad came to the hospital to wish me well. I felt their love, and, for as nervous as I was, I knew I would be fine. My parents told me they were praying for me, and they would be there for me when the surgery was finished. As I was being wheeled down the hall toward the operating room, I started to cry.
The next day, after I woke up from a good night’s rest, I looked for Stephen. I didn’t see him through the glass window. I thought he, too, had some type of surgery. As the day went on, Stephen never returned to his room. I felt sad and did not understand what had happened. A few days later, my parents took me home.
When I was in my thirties, I talked to my parents about being in the hospital and having my tonsils removed. I asked my mother if she knew what had happened to Stephen. She began to cry and told me that while I was in surgery, Stephen passed away.
I asked my mother how Stephen died. She said a nurse in the hospital told her he had leukemia. I asked my mother why his parents never visited him. She said that on the day Stephen died, his parents were burying his brother who died of the same disease.
After my mom told me about Stephen, I cried. Stephen’s death did not make sense. However, when I placed my faith in God, I began to look at Stephen’s life – and my life – differently. My despair led me to raise my heart and mind to Jesus. I began to think of the hope that Jesus gives humanity by his life, death, and Resurrection. I thought of Stephen looking at God face-to-face, whereas I can only believe in Him.
In a life of faith, Advent is a season of hope. It leads to the birth of Our Savior. I trust Jesus, and I pray that he is the light that will pierce our darkness in this time of waiting.