The Christmas tiger

In the past, our Christmasses have been filled with an obscenely fun amount of activities – from fall winter sports tournaments and showcases to teacher/staff appreciation luncheons, volunteer banquets, work parties, friend parties, church parties, and of course the Big Party on Christmas Eve and all the festivities of Christmas Day.

This year, we’d hoped to be able to visit family and friends, at least for an outdoor picnic. Maybe even a scavenger hunt for the kids. But a week before Christmas I was diagnosed with Lupus and Sjogren’s diseases, and the treatment cocktail included immunosuppressants, so any kind of gathering with people who don’t live in my household was/is a bad idea.

So Christmas looked different this year. As much as my heart ached- and still aches – to see family and friends, it ended up being a blessing to be still.

When I was still, I saw my husband install new, joint-friendly door handles because our other ones were hard for me to manage and he didn’t want me to hurt. I watched my son vacuum the house and heard him sing at the top of his lungs while he did it (just like his Papa did when I was a kid). I heard them do laundry, and dishes, and order my favorite salads for dinner delivery. It made me feel warm, loved, and cared for while I’m learning how to manage these diseases.

I feel like someone gave me a tiger for Christmas and I can’t return it. Now, I love tigers. Tigers are absolutely one of God’s most beautiful creatures, but let’s face it – they’ll kill you if you turn your back on them.

Beautiful, yet terrifying. Photo by Flickr on

If someone gives you a tiger, you have a choice. You can find people who know how to properly house and feed tigers, keep them occupied and happy so they leave you alone and you can both live in peace- or you can try to take care of it on your own. You might get lucky and get along with it for a while, but the day will come when the tiger gets hungry. It could be today, it could be a year or ten from now, but that day will come.

Over the past two weeks, my husband and son showed me that I’m not alone in dealing with my tiger. Their support and encouragement lifted me up when I needed to see that I have tiger experts on my side. My doctors and nurses are equipping me with the best tools they can to keep the claws and teeth of these diseases at bay. And of course my family have already shown me that they’re ready to help when the pain and fatigue are overwhelming.

This Christmas was odd but beautiful in its own way. I’m so grateful that God gave me the people He did for this moment in my life. As hard as these past few weeks have been, I feel peaceful and hopeful. I know without a doubt that as time passes, together we’ll tame this tiger and it will simply be another facet of an interesting life rather than something scary.

Published by Kell McKinney

I write middle grade and picture book stories. Member of SCBWI. Former marketing manager for a company people love to hate.

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