79: The Last Christmas

79: The Last Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

The Last Christmas

It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.

~Isabel Currier

It was an unusually warm and sunny day for early winter in Minnesota, with a fresh coating of snow gently blanketing the ground. The air smelled of a crisp pine scent coming from the fragrant evergreen trees nearby. Crowds of people were gathering on the lawn of a house, the driveway and the nearby road. They quickly decorated the outside of the house and the nearby trees with ornaments, ribbons, and wreaths.

A local news station had picked up the story and was filming the activity. Friends and neighbors set up tables offering homemade Christmas cookies and hot apple cider. A talented local art teacher was selling special Christmas pins painted by her art students to raise money for the family inside the house. And then Santa arrived bearing a glorious red sack full of toys and gifts. He rang the doorbell.

All this commotion and good cheer was the result of a top-secret mission to bring Christmas early to the family inside that house: my good friends Michael, Nicole, and their four young children. Michael was nearing the end of his battle against an aggressive form of oral squamous cell cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments had bought him some precious time, but the cancer was in his lungs and lymph nodes now.

It had been surprisingly easy to coordinate this event by using technology. We were able to spread the word to family, friends, neighbors, community and church. People e-mailed and called by the dozens and asked what they could bring and how they could help. In just one week’s time, the word had gotten out that there would be a spectacular Christmas celebration on Michael’s front lawn in the middle of November!

Now, Santa was ringing the doorbell and we were waiting for our guest of honor. Michael slowly opened the door and the crowd began to sing Christmas carols. He choked back tears at the same time that he was smiling. In that brief moment, it seemed like the cancer had disappeared.

The news crew captured the entire event as it unfolded. Michael stepped out onto the porch where he was greeted by Santa Claus and a multitude of people that he had touched in one way or another. As he slowly waded through the crowd, he happily shook hands and gave out enormous hugs. He exclaimed, “Man, this is awesome… this is crazy.” The caroling began again as people reached for each other’s hands.

A couple who owned a nearby reindeer farm had also heard of the family’s hardships. They pulled up to the house with two of their most beloved and exquisite reindeer! The stunning pair wore jingle bells on their halters as they stood majestically in the driveway. Michael’s children squealed in delight as he watched their small faces light up like Christmas light bulbs. As he reached out his hand and gently stroked the reindeer, he realized that he had been given an extraordinary gift in this tribute. He had wanted his family’s last Christmas with him to be a special one, and the community had come together to make it special not only for him, but for his wife and children. This was something they would remember forever, a lasting legacy from a beloved husband and father.

More than two hundred people converged on the family’s lawn that day toting an abundance of Christmas spirit for one exceptional human being and his family.

Michael passed away peacefully in his bed with his devoted wife by his side a few weeks later; his wish for a final, meaningful Christmas became a reality.

~Rita Kaye Vetsch

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