29 December 2009

Breck's Thoughts: A Family Christmas

We have really enjoyed being with family* this Christmas.  There have been a lot of good laughs shared and good food eaten.  I have appreciated all the extra love given to our two boys by aunts and uncles as well as grandparents.  I've even been able to sleep in a few times which was glorious!

But one of the most touching moments for me this Christmas was a family viewing of the CF Foundation documentary "Expanding the Horizons of Hope: An overview of 50 years of progress in CF research and care and the challenges that still lie ahead."

It's strange to think that this was one of my most memorable moments of Christmas 2009.  But I will never forget the 60 minutes shared while watching that video.

At one point into the documentary, I took a mental snapshot.  With Bennett in my arms, I watched on as my large family sat in the dark room, the glow of the TV on their faces, listening to the narrator tell the story of Cystic Fibrosis.  No one moved, not even little Oliver, who was cuddled next to Aunt Brook.  The video began by explaining what it's like to have CF and then went on to describe in detail how CF affects the body.

My eyes began to swell with tears as I realized what was happening.  In that moment, my family was being melded together by their love for the newest family member...but also by the reality that this genetic disease affects us all.  Two family members still have not been tested.  Will they likely face CF in their own childrens' lives one day?

This video was giving my family insight into just a small part of what it will be like to raise Bennett.  My heart hurt as I realized that the information my family was learning at that moment would be the groundwork for what will come up years from now - questions and curiosity over his care that will one day arise around the dinner table.  I began daydreaming what it will be like to have future conversations where family members will ask follow up questions regarding information they first learned in this video. 

I knew this moment would not be an isolated event.  This would be just the beginning.  Our family viewing of this video was a hazing, of sorts, into a life none of us ever expected to have as the extended family of little Bennett Gamel.

My tears were for the realization that this isn't what "normal" families do at Christmas gatherings.  Our CF experience will continue to establish a new normal for our lives.  But the awareness of that new normal continues to surprise me.

But I think my tears were for something much deeper, much scarier.  As I listened to my thoughts, I began to realize that my tears were grief.  Would these people - the ones scattered throughout couches in this dark room - be the same people gathered together one day facing Bennett's funeral?

The video was over.  Everyone began stretching.  The lights had not been turned on yet.  With Bennett fast asleep in one hand, I used my other to eject the DVD from the player.  My tears could no longer stay private as I tried to articulate my appreciation to my family:

Thank you for humoring us by sitting through this not-so-action-packed-CF Foundation-video.  Thank you for caring enough about little Bennett to listen to what our lives are going to be like for the rest of Bennett's life.  But most importantly, thank you for being our family - we know it is likely to be a lonely road ahead and it's good to know you guys will come along beside us.

(*We missed being with Brian's family but look forward to our "Christmas in March" with them in a few months.)


  1. I am impressed by your strength and your honesty...praying for you guys.
    Jared Angell

  2. Thanks for painting this picture for us, Breck. I can feel the love and support of your family through it. You four are certainly blessed to have such a wonderful family.

  3. It brought tears to my eyes reading this post! I can just imagine your family sitting together as you watched and learned about what life might look like in the years ahead.

    Even though we're farther away, know that you have more "family" supporting you guys around the country! We hope to visit you sooner than later in 2010.


  4. My dear Breck - what a thoughtful post. I can't completely relate to your story, but it does remind me of when Erin was diagnosed with leukemia. She was diagnosed on December 19 and I remember how different that Christmas was. Our presents were wrapped in brown paper bags because my mom had no time to wrap them and all of our family members had to wear masks when coming to visit. My sisters and I were all tested later too. Even though I was only 11, I remember the striking changes that took place. Talk of protocols became commonplace and we learned all of the things we needed to do to keep her (and ourselves) healthy.

    But, you adjust. And all of these strange things become seemingly normal. That's what family does - you hold on to each other in the face of adversity. And, each and every one of you will become stronger because of it. I'm so glad that you have such a loving and caring family to support you through all of this. God is most certainly good, and he gave YOU just the medicine you needed this Christmas.


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