A Scary Day Before Christmas


First of all let me wish you all a Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you may be celebrating today. This tree graphic (that I borrowed) best epitomizes my feelings this morning: simple, joyous relief.

Yesterday was not such a restful, joyous day. I say that in the way that only a parent can appreciate.  About mid-day our daughter Kathryn called to say she and our son-in-law Michael were at the emergency room.

Now, Michael in the E R hasn’t been all that unusual.  This last year or so he’s been doing a number  on his body. There was the broken foot, and a Corvette exhaust that sliced his hand pretty good.  All of those were bad enough but nothing like the stress of yesterday.  All of those were accidents, what happened yesterday puts one in mind of their own mortality.

Let me tell you the story…20120829073328001

Mike’s new shop is being repaired before opening to the public.  He bought a wonderful old heritage building of which I’ve spoken before knowing that some serious remodeling would be necessary.  All well and good.

He’s already had masons in to fortify the walls.  There are currently roofers waiting around to finish re-roofing the place (the recent snow/rain has put the kibosh on forward progress there).  Plumbers are due to arrive sometime sort of soon.  The gas is on and he’s warming up the building.  But… he also thought that a wood burner would be a cute and appropriate-to-the-building added heat source.  Frankly, it’s a thought I would have had as well.

not his but simlarA few days ago he had the wood burner in place but when it came time to attach the flue he could not find any black pipe to make the connection and used galvanized instead.

When I heard this I both cringed and thought it perfectly normal.  I know that you usually use black pipe, but I also know that most of the old low-efficiency hot water heaters I’ve ever seen used galvanized flues so I didn’t think the decision to be such a bad one.  One of those should have done this, but that will work just as well.

Turns out it doesn’t work just as well.  And here’s why.  A family friend Kent Knapp is a blacksmith. Yes, a really, truly, iron smashing, anvil clanging blacksmith (Milwaukee Blacksmith).  He posted a link on Facebook to a tragic story within his field.  It’s a story about Zinc Metal Fume Fever, and the potentially fatal (actually fatal in the case of the example used) dangers.

So, here we have a young (he’s less than mid 40’s) man who just put in a galvanized zinc flue on a wood burner who coincidentally happens to suffering from a really bad case of the flue and he reads this story about an experience that sounds an awful lot like what he’d been living through.  Next stop the Emergency Room.

I’m so proud of Mike and Katy that they hot footed it over to the E.R..  This sort of thing isn’t something you ponder about, its the sort of thing that you get treatment for RIGHT AWAY.  That’s about the time Katy called us to keep let us know that Christmas Day plans might be changed — Duh…… And there was some really scary time in between that call and getting an all clear from the E.R. doctors, and the assurance that he wasn’t suffering from metal poisoning. We all breathed a sigh of relief.  Especially Michael.


As it all worked out they gave him some anti nausea meds, pumped him full of fluids and his condition improved. He’s back home again — only 4 hours later (perhaps one of the shortest U.S. ER visits in history) and on the mend.  I sounds like he’ll recuperate at home and he’s sending the girls over with lasagna to be cooked here in a germ free environment (ha ha) and we are happy that the story has a happy ending.

But in this season of Peace to Men of Good Will it was a stern reminder that none of us is more than a heartbeat away from death.  I happen to believe that Jesus came to Earth a Savior for all men, but neither am I in a super hurry to go meet him in heaven.  God’s given us a wonderful place to live on this planet and it’s a good thing to use the time well that we have here.  That includes valuing the family and friends we have here.  That includes doing what we can for others.  That includes appreciating what we have, and not focussing on what we have not.

I hope all of you have a happy Christmas.  I know today is a much happier day than yesterday.  And not because anyone got presents to unwrap, and not because we saw anyone smile when they unwrapped the present we gave them. Simply because we HAVE a family, it’s one we love, and we are all present to be thankful for that.  And I guess my final note is this: it’s a blessing to have a family who don’t insist on going through everything alone.   It takes a moment to think that others in your life care about you and want to share in your life, and to keep them in the loop.  Knowing that it’s important to keep family FAMILY, to let them share good and bad, happy and sad because that’s just what family does.  It’s easy to focus on yourself.  Not so easy to take a moment to include those who truly care about you.

Merry Christmas to all…..


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