83: The Power of Christmas Memories

83: The Power of Christmas Memories

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

The Power of Christmas Memories

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.

~J.M. Barrie

It was nothing short of a miracle. No doctor or nurse could have brought about what happened that day. The old woman had been unresponsive for more than a day and her family was sitting by her side, waiting for the inevitable.

I was visiting my good friends at the Kelowna, British Columbia retirement home, just as I’d been doing each Christmas over the last few years. I had donned my favourite red suit with the white fur trim, and my wife had brushed my white hair and long white beard so I would look my very best. My boots were shined, and I had pressed my best silk lined robe interlaced with sparkling, gold “magic” dust. As always, I entered the residence with my very best and loudest “HO! HO! HO!” A large group of the residents had been waiting patiently in the open common area of the foyer, and as they saw me, and most certainly heard me, their faces lit up. It was a wonderful reminder that we all become children again when confronted with the joy of Christmas.

I walked around the large room, flirting with some of the older ladies, and commenting on the beautiful smiles of others. The gentlemen were all complimented on their strong grips or their fancy Christmas ties. Then I read them The Night Before Christmas. The smiles grew and the twinkle in their eyes brightened even more.

After finishing the poem I said my goodbyes to those assembled and set about, with the assistance of my wife Linda (my favourite helper), to visit those residents who were confined to their rooms. Each individual visit was as splendid and as enjoyable as the last. Smiles were the order of the day. In fact, as the afternoon passed, I realized I couldn’t tell the difference between the smiles and twinkling eyes of these older people and the many children I see each and every year. Indeed I could honestly say this was my treat more than it was theirs.

When I had almost completed my visits I looked about for Linda and found her talking to a woman in her late sixties. A sad but caring and loving look was on the woman’s face, and a tissue was at the ready. When they finished talking Linda turned and walked toward me.

The woman Linda was talking to was the daughter of the lady who had closed her eyes the day before. She told Linda her mother was going to pass any time, but that if she could just have one last visit from Santa it might help ease the pain for the family. There was no doubt in Linda’s mind that I would make this visit and do all I could to make it special.

I took a moment to emotionally prepare before entering the room. It’s not often I am asked to make a visit of this nature. When I entered I nodded my hello to the daughter, and gave her a warm and gentle smile as she sat at the foot of her mother’s bed. I sat on the edge of the bed and looked down at a woman, very old to be sure, but also at peace. The slight rise and fall of her chest were the only signs of life left.

I softly stroked the woman’s hair and I thanked her for all the gifts she had wrapped and the stories she had told involving yours truly. I thanked her for all the pies she had baked and the turkeys she had basted and stuffed. I thanked her for being a mother who showed love 365 days a year, but somehow warmed the hearts of her family even more at this special time of year.

While I was speaking, the daughter sat quietly at the foot of the bed sniffing back tears. And then it happened! It was both surprising and frightening, and for a brief second I was actually taken aback because I never expected it. This sweet, old woman suddenly opened her eyes and looked straight at me. For perhaps four full seconds we gazed into each other’s eyes, and I gave her the best gift I could — a huge heartfelt smile from Santa.

“Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” I said, and then she once again closed her eyes. I bent forward and kissed her forehead. I gave her daughter a hug, and then I left the room.

I continued on with my visits to those who were confined to their beds, shaking hands and giving hugs. But it was different now. I was lighter than air because of the miracle of that special moment. Then, as I finished my last visit and prepared to leave I was approached by staff and told the news. The woman had passed. It was her last Christmas, and the last thing she saw was the smiling face of Santa Claus. She walked to the light with a smile.

~Gordon Allen

Blind Bay, British Columbia

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