Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sarah and Santa

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin. The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend? Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied.

"My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly. Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

"She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed. "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas. When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted.

"What is it?" Santa asked warmly.

"Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but..." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors. "The girl in the photograph . my granddaughter...well, you see...she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa .. any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do. Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do. "What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "this is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.

Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day.

"C'mon ... I'll take you there," Rick said softly. Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall. Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah. Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!"

"Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes in tact.

Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement. Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore tell-tale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears. Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room. As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly tothe bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes. Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year. As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands. Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.

"Oh, yes, Santa ... I do!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you,! "he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night .. all is calm, all is bright." The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own.

"Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at MayfairMall this time next year!" He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.

"Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright.He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room. Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between themand they wept unashamed. Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him.

"My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly. "This is the least I could do." They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap. "Hi, Santa! Remember me?!"

"Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment.

"You came to see me in the hospital last year!" Santa's jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest.

"Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy-- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before. He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes. That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus.

He had witnessed--and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. 'Tis a very, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Christmas Wish

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow, And each road leads you where you want to go, And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose, I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.

And if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window, If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything, My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, You never need to carry more than you can hold, And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.

I hope you never look back, but ya never forget, All the ones who love you, in the place you left, I hope you always forgive, and you never regret, And you help somebody every chance you get, Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake, And you always give more than you take.

But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything, My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, You never need to carry more than you can hold, And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,

Yeah, this, is my wish.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Punny Christmas Story

James Fenimore Cooper wrote about the life of Santa Claus. Naturally he titled it The Deer Sleigher. He could have also called it The Abdominal Snowman. On the inside cover appears a photograph of Santa taken with his North Polaroid camera.

In the pages of this expose, you'll find out that Santa's primary language is North Polish. You'll learn that Santa and Mrs. Claus live in an icicle built for two and that he loves tending his three gardens and exulting, "Hoe, hoe, hoe!"

You'll also discover that St. Nicholas is the main Claus. His wife is a relative Claus. His children are dependent Clauses. Their Dutch uncle is a restrictive Claus. As a group, they're all renoun Clauses.

Santa's Elves

Santa's elves are subordinate Clauses. As they make toys, they sing "Love Me Tender." That's why they're known as Santa's little Elvis.

They feel that all their strenuous efforts getting ready for Christmas are just like a day at the office. They do all the work, and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit. And anytime he wishes, Santa can give them the sack.

A group of rebellious elves -- along with their elf uncles and elf aunts -- have banded together to protest the terrible conditions they've been working under. They are known as the Santanistas -- and they're striving for higher elf esteem.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, Santa eats a jolly roll, leaps into his sleigh, and urges his toys to hop in the sack. Santa's sleigh always comes out first because it starts in the Pole position. It also gets terrific mileage because it has long-distance runners on each side.

Kriss Kringle especially loves all his reindeer because every buck is deer to him. On the way to delivering gifts, he lets his coursers stop at the Deery Queen. For this they offer him their Santapplause and sing "There's Snow Place Like Home for the Holidays" and "Freezer Jolly Good Fellow!"

On one night before Christmas, Santa Claus's sleigh team came up one member short because of a sudden illness. An inflatable plastic reindeer was used to fill the void in the team so no one would take notice of the missing animal. Regis, Chief of Elves, asked Santa, "Is that your vinyl Prancer?"

On the Sleigh

When traveling in the sleigh in inclement weather, Santa gets icicles in his beard. Real chin chillas, those. Occasionally, cosmetics fly out of the bag and into Santa's beard, causing it to known as the beard of Avon. He sometimes removes all the bells from his sleigh and travels silently through the night. One day he hopes to win a No Bell prize.

Santa is so Santa-mental that he sometimes spends all his money on the toys that he brings to children everywhere. At those times, he's called St. Nickeless. Children all over the world await Santa's gifts, even the children of ghosts, who sing to Santa, "We'll Have a Boo Christmas Without You." After all, toys will be toys.

Santa often guides his sleigh to Cape Canaveral. We know this because A SANTA AT NASA is a palindrome -- a statement that reads the same forwards and backwards.

Down the Chimney

What's red and white and black all over? Santa Claus entering a home through a chimney. He loves sliding down chimneys because it soots him. But he actually has a fear of getting stuck. That fear is called Santa Claus-trophobia. The way to get him out of the chimney is to pour Santa Flush on him. Occasionally Santa falls down a chimney. Then he's Santa Klutz. Since Santa has to go up and down a wide variety of chimneys on Christmas, should he have a yearly flue shot?

Many thanks to Richard Lederer.