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Always Here For Christmas
Claire and Andrew Reynolds walked down the pastel colored hallways, ready to face what they had known was coming for months. They had walked down these halls so many times it was as normal as walking their own halls at home. Claire knew where the cracks in the ceiling were, which tiles had dots shaped like someone’s head, and which chairs were the comfortable ones if you were going to be sitting for a long time. The hospital was a second home, for too many years now and tonight that could all completely change.
“Good day for this to happen huh? Christmas…” Andrew said with a far off, look as they walked down the hall. Andrew was twenty years old and home from college for the break.
“At least he gets to spend one last Christmas with us. I think he was waiting for this one last thing ya know? One last hurrah” Claire said, trying to comfort her brother. Claire was 26, newly married and with a baby on the way in March.
“Hurrah,” Andrew said sarcastically and without emotion.
Their father had been in the hospital for 6 months, dying of leukemia. He’d been diagnosed three years ago and the doctors hadn’t thought he would survive the year. But he had continued to live a mostly normal life, living as much as he could, until he could go no longer. For six months now he had been hanging on. He wanted to meet his first grandchild, see his son graduate from college, and make sure he saw one last Christmas. Now it was Christmas and it seemed this was the only one of his last goals he would accomplish. The nurses had called early that Christmas morning. “He’s not doing well dearie… I think he’s… he won’t be on this earth much longer. You might want to come by and say good-bye.”
Claire stopped in front of the door to their father’s room and said to Andrew, “Ready?’
Andrew nodded and pushed through the door. There was their father, lying in the bed. He lied there so still that an outsider might think he had already passed. But the constant sound of machines going beep, beep, beep, was there let them know that the end had not come. When Andrew and Claire walked over and sat on either side of him his eyes fluttered open and he said “Hey kiddos, Good to see ya!” the way he would when he picked them up from school or when they walked in the door from a long weekend away from home. For that moment, Claire almost convinced herself that he was going to be fine. But then she saw him, with tubes in his nose and IVs in his arms that this was the end.
“Hi dad,” Andrew said, “ Merry Christmas.”
“Yeah , Merry Christmas Dad” Claire said and she kissed the top of his head.
“Glad I could make it. Had to fit into my busy day but I always find a way to make Christmas.” He said with a sparkle in his eyes. With that, Claire could no longer contain her tears and they ran her cheeks.
“Oh dad… how do you manage to stay so lighthearted when your like this?” Claire asked.
“Like what? I’m as happy and healthy as a newborn colt. In fact I was just about to go for a jog,” he said with a smile then winked at her.
“Dad?” Andrew said.
“I want you to know… you couldn’t have done anything better. I mean… any of those things I said in high school, I didn’t mean them.”
Dad chuckled then said, “Oh I know you meant a lot of it. But I get what your trying to say son. I love you too. You are a wonderful man, with a huge heart.”
Claire was crying harder now, tears streaming down her face like water down a waterfall.
“My dear Claire… oh what can I say? I love you darlin’”
“I’ll miss you Dad. What will I do without you, especially at Christmas time?”
“Oh I’m always here. I’ll be in the sparkle in the snow, the needles of your Christmas tree and in the silver shine of the ribbons. I’m always here kiddos.”
With Claire holding one hand and Andrew holding the other, he slowing slipped away. That was his last Christmas
. But every Christmas when the snow sparkled and she smelled the pine of the trees, she and her brother knew, he was there.