Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve I will Never Forget

When I was 20, I was renting a room off a lady named Pat. Pat was great, she was fun, always had a smile, or a joke; she was also dying from Emphysema. When I moved in, she was pretty much bed-bound and on oxygen, but, none-the-less, she was still a great mom to her 15 year old son.

At the time, I was working a minimum wage job and going to college, which meant I had no money. She was barely scraping by, so we decided to forgo a Christmas tree that year, even though she loved Christmas. She was pretty sad about not having a tree, but when you need to buy food, it just seems like an expense you can live without.

Pat stayed in her bed on the second floor of the little apartment we lived in. She could only get up for a few minutes a day, and even then, she needed help.

One of her sons had just been released from jail and came home on Christmas Eve. When he came home, he asked why we didn't have a tree. We told him we couldn't afford one. He told us that his mom loved Christmas and he was going to get her a tree, and he left.

He came home about an hour later and had a worried look on his face, like he was being followed. He went outside and when he came back in, he had a Christmas tree. The tree was pretty small, but it was a tree. I noticed it had a few strands of tinsel on it. I thought it was odd that there would be tinsel on a new tree, but I didn't ask about it.

We wanted to surprise Pat so the three of us quietly decorated the tree with a handful of ornaments that we scrounged up and ONE string of lights we found. When we turned the lights on, it was actually kind of cute, like in a Charlie Brown tree sort of way.

When we were finished, we moved the tree to the base of the stairs so it would be easy for her to see. Then we went upstairs and told Pat that we had a surprise for her, but she would have to get out of bed and go downstairs. The way the apartment was set up was, you walk up a half flight of steps, go to a landing, and they turn around and walk up the other half. Since we put the tree at the bottom of the stairs, we just needed to get Pat to the half-way mark, or the landing.

The three of us helped her walk down the stairs and we made her close her eyes. We had her stand on the landing and open her eyes. When she opened them, she saw her little tree with a few ornaments and a strand of lights, she didn't say anything. She had a huge smile on her face as she stood there and stared, and then started to cry. She told us it was the most beautiful tree she had ever seen. She asked for a chair so she could sit and watch "her tree" as she called it, and that is what she did, she just sat there gazing at that little tree. She watched it most of the night.

I will never forget that night, ever. She was so happy to have that little tree, I think it meant the world to her. I can't think of another Christmas where something so little brought so much joy.

Pat ended up dying later that year. The one thing I learned is that if you have the chance to ever give someone one last chance at a bit of happiness, no matter what, make it happen for them. I don't think there is a greater gift to be given.

I hate to tell this part, but I guess it isn't really that big a deal. Her son took the tree from a front lawn of a church. He said he had to get a tree for his mom and no matter what, he was going to get a tree for his mom. He said that if anyone was ok with him taking a tree for his dying mom on Christmas Eve, he hoped a church would be and he hoped they would not have minded.

Somehow, I have always hoped they did not mind, but after the way it turned out, I wish I could have told them how much happiness it brought, as then I know they would not have minded. That night was one of a kind; I will never forget it.
(c) 2007 Cindy Breninger All Rights Reserved.