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December 14, 2016 / hbrowne4

Christmas Gifts Like No Others By Jack Kelly Jnr.

It took but one single beam of the rising sun to alight upon the closed eyes of little Mary and she was instantly awake. The child’s own sunshine came to join that of the sun and together glowed upon her now beaming face. She was still wearing her Superwoman Warrior Outfit. Picking up her warrior’s sword, without thought she leapt barefoot from her bed. The cold of the freezing floor chills her soft, little feet. Now she does her tappy-tap-tap dance to warm her toes up. Happy again, humming nonsense tunes to herself, Mary begins making her way to Daddy’s and Mammy’s bedroom.

Pinnacle heard Mary’s tiny feet skipping happily along the corridor and joined in the quest. His tail swung with a gentle, delightful, rhythmic sound as it bounced off of a wall on one side of the corridor and then the other. The dog, which stood four feet high at the shoulders, easily towered above the little warrior. His golden coat matched the colour of her straw blond hair. Seen from a distance they seemed to be one very big, very noisy, moving fur-ball.

Stopping suddenly, Mary threw her arms up and hooked them around Pinnacle’s neck, hugging him tightly. Then she stood on her tippy toes, kissed him on the nose and whispered out loud “You are so beautiful!”

She continued “Let’s go into the spare bedroom first, Pinnacle before we go to Mammy’s and Daddy’s. I love seeing the sun shine upon Jesus’ picture. He always smiles so generously when that happens.”

So, together, they took a short detour to this room and waited for the sun’s rays to enter and then shine upon the painting.  Once again, as the sunlight fell upon the face of Jesus his smile seemed to spread more happily, more serenely, more generously as happened every day since Mary and Pinnacle first discovered this. “Oh!” she cried, “He’s nearly as beautiful as you, Pinnacle! I love his scarf; don’t you?”

With that she smiled happily, threw a kiss to Jesus and then ran from the room, the golden protector bounding after her. Straight into Mammy’s and Daddy’s room they went and, not taking a moment’s hesitation, she did two quick steps to Pinnacle’s one before they leaped onto the bed together.

The large dog delighted in this game. He loved that Daddy and Mammy had his special space all warmed up. Positioning himself between the two sleeping forms he began turning round and round until he had made a wonderful, cosy dog-bed. There he lay down, settling into his favourite place in the whole, wide world. Feeling very content with his life, he happily turned his attention to Mary, to see what she was up to.

She had been equally as busy. Attempting to climb under the bedclothes she had pushed these down with her feet at the same time. Mary was also singing a little song to herself.

Rise and shine lazy ladybirds

Rise and shine lazy Mammy, Daddy

The sun is up

Jesus is up

We’re up

Rise and shine lazy ladybirds

Both of her little hands were tugging powerfully at the bedclothes, the ones that were tucked tightly over Mammy’s and Daddy’s heads.

Let the sun in, sleepy-heads” she sang all the more determinedly, pulling at those bedclothes with every bit of strength she possessed.

There came moans and sobs of sorrow and regret for lost sleep from the sleepy two.

We saw Jesus smile when the sun shone on him”, she continued matter of factly and then “and I kissed Pinnacle on the nose too. He’s not so tall if I stand on my tippy toes like this.” She immediately stood up, attempting to stand on her toes in the bed but instead, falling instantly on top of Daddy.

You could hear the air being punctured out of his belly as she did so. Mary thought this was very funny. “Will we do it again Daddy? Will we play that game again?” she song-cried, climbing off of Daddy and leaping to her feet, all at the same time.

Daddy jumped out of bed quickly and was now standing on the timber floor, rubbing his sore stomach. During all of this time the adults had not uttered a word. Now he opened his mouth to speak but closed it again.

His wife was peering out from under the duvet, laughing silently, helplessly. He smiled too but not as much. Mammy caught Mary in a tight hug and together they snuggled into a warm cocoon under the bedclothes. “Tell Daddy to come back into bed with us” Mammy suggested.

Daddy, you look funny standing there rubbing your tummy. Why did you get out of bed anyway? I want to lie comfy between Mammy and you.”

Daddy climbed back into bed and Mammy, reaching across Mary, hugged him gently to them.

Oh this is so comfyyyyyy” cried Mary, placing her freezing feet upon Mammy’s bare arm at the same time. Mammy let out a sudden yelp and cried “You little vixen! I’ve asked you a million times to put on socks before you climb in here with us.” Mary laughed and snuggled her head down onto Mammy’s bosom.

Daddy and Mammy looked long and deeply into each others’ eyes across the top of the little girl’s blond hair. No words needed to be spoken for a mutually deep sadness, grief and sorrow was plain to be seen. Daddy had by now swung his arm across Mary and Mammy and all three clung to each other; Mary in happiness and joy, the parents in the feared loss of love and light from their lives.

The little girl sat up suddenly, kicking back the blankets as she did so. “Christmas will soon be here,” she announced, “and I have asked Jesus for a special present. It’s a secret so I can’t tell you! Ok?” Then she jumped out of the bed, racing to the kitchen, Pinnacle bounding after her, his tail swinging every which way in excitement.

Mammy and Daddy, you stay in bed and I’ll bring you breakfast.” she shouted.

You never saw two people get out of bed so quickly. Before Mary was finished speaking they had arrived into the kitchen. Their sadness was now masked by a sheen of natural happiness, even though tell-tale signs of stress and worry-lines could still be seen around their eyes and mouths.

It’s not fair if you do all of the work” laughed Daddy, picking up his daughter and tickling her, “We’ll do it together.”

Later that day, after dropping Mary to her playschool, Mammy and Daddy had a follow-up appointment with the medical specialist.

The news is as we feared,” he said, “The illness is back and there is nothing that can be done. We always knew that if it returned it would be impervious to any treatment. We need a miracle.”  None of them held out any such hope.

Mammy’s breathing became ragged. Daddy was holding her hands powerfully, protectively until she was able to breathe a little more easily. Then, after swallowing a number of times, eventually, she voiced the dreaded words “How long?”

She will hardly make the New Year” he answered grimly, compassionately and continued “At the moment she appears fine but as soon as the impact fully hits she will go downhill very rapidly. I’m sorry!”

Once they got into their car the dam burst and bitter tears flowed.

Initially they had refused to accept their defeat, their powerlessness. They had tried everything – phone calls, emails, visits, research, anything to find a remedy or even to buy time. They didn’t care whether the solution came from alternative therapies or conventional ones. Whatever little faith they had in a God was lost entirely.

This time around they knew there were no other avenues open. They decided to spend this oh, so precious but little time available to them with their little darling.

Telling her the news was incredibly painful but their little princess said she already knew.

That’s why I’m praying to Jesus so that he will bring you special Christmas gifts” she called as she scrambled playfully after the dog.

Always a loving and devoted couple the stress put strains upon their relationship. They patched up these as best as they could knowing these dear moments together as a family would be all they would have.

Time passed. Mary became very, very ill. She asked to be moved into the spare bedroom so that she could see the picture of Jesus and the way he smiled when the sun shone upon him. Every morning Daddy came in early to open the curtains but then had to leave straight away. Only Pinnacle was allowed to stay.

Christmas Day arrived. Mary was now dreadfully weak and asked to be propped up in her bed. She wanted to be awake when Jesus arrived with their presents. Mammy and Daddy had humoured the little girl all along about this “Jesus and gifts” business. Now though they worried about what to say when her hopes would be dashed; feeling sure that this was what was about to happen.

They sat, on either side of the bed, each holding one of her hands, awaiting the sun to shine on the picture. Mary had especially asked that the lights not be turned on this morning, all the better for her to see the effect of the sun lighting up the painting.

Suddenly they heard Pinnacle barking very, very loudly and happily out in the corridor. He began running in and out of the room, barking all of the time. As Daddy went to investigate Pinnacle stopped him. Then Mammy attempted to leave the room but the barking dog prevented her too. He seemed to be saying “The two of you come! The two of you come!”

So together, uncertainly, they followed Pinnacle out to the corridor.  At its end stood Mary and beside her, Jesus.  She was smiling happily as she held Jesus’ hand.

Pinnacle ran to them and both Mary and Jesus began ruffling the dog’s fluffy ears. Mary, being too small, had to stand on her tippy toes. Mammy and Daddy could see that he loved his ears being fondled like that, his tail noisily bouncing back and forth off of each wall in turn.

Mary whispered something to Jesus. He smiled, nodded and together they walked up the corridor to Mammy and Daddy. Jesus removed his long, colourful scarf, broke it in two and draped one of the pieces gently around Mammy’s shoulders and neck and the other about Daddy’s. There came from his eyes and heart currents of the purest, unconditional love which swept deep into the hearts of Mammy and Daddy. A great peace descended upon them. Then holding Mary’s two hands, he lifted her up ever so beautifully, gently, lovingly and they left.

They heard Pinnacle barking plaintively from the bedroom and the parents ran back in. Mary was peaceful but very still, one hand clenched tightly shut, a loving smile upon her lips. Mammy and Daddy returned to their seats beside the bed. Each took one of Mary’s hands as before. But now everything was changed. She was gone, gone with Jesus.

After a long, long while Daddy spoke. “We have lost our beautiful Mary. Her leaving like that must be the gift for us from Jesus that she prayed for. I am glad, very glad to know she is now gone to a better place and that he is looking after her in such a beautiful, loving way.” With those words all of his reserves of fight vanished and his tears flowed and flowed.

Mammy went around, kissed Daddy and hugged him, thanking him for saying such a beautiful thing.  She returned to her own chair and her vigil at their daughter’s bedside. This time, as she took the still hand she noticed there was something clenched in Mary’s fist. Gently prying open the little fingers, a small tightly folded piece of paper fell out. Mammy put it in her pocket without opening it.

They remained like that for a long time, never stirring, too numb even to pray. Suddenly Pinnacle leaped to his feet, barking and barking. He jumped upon the bed and began licking Mary’s now cold face. Mammy and Daddy could not understand what had gotten into him but knew he loved Mary. They decided to allow him be.

Shortly Pinnacle quietened down again. He went to the foot of the bed and lay down at Mary’s feet. The room began to darken as the day darkened outside. Tiredness and exhaustion overcame Mammy and Daddy, falling asleep in their chairs.

They awoke with a start, hearing the unexpected sound of a small child’s excited voice.

Mammy, Daddy, did Jesus bring you your gifts?” they heard Mary call out from her bed. At first neither parent dared believe their ears. But Mary was wide awake, smiling. “I’m hungry,” she said, “What’s for breakfast? It’s very dark this morning, isn’t it?”

Then she sang out, as she bounced on her bed: “Today is Christmas Day; today is Christmas Day; today Jesus is bringing our presents; one for you, Mammy; one for you, Daddy and one for me. Jesus said yours would be a surprise and I’m not to tell you. Mine is that I’ll live to be a hundred. How long is a “hundred” Mammy?” It seems she couldn’t stop talking.

Come on wakey, wakey, wakey, lazy ladybirds; wakey, wakey, lazy ladybirds; I’m starving.” and with that she ran off towards the kitchen, Pinnacle bounding after her.

The parents were left speechless. Now beginning to wonder if they had imagined all that had happened earlier, doubts began to creep in. Then they noticed that they wore the scarves Jesus had given to them; the exact same one as he wore in the picture. They turned to look and gasped. Jesus was no longer wearing his scarf.

Honey, it’s a miracle!” Mammy said very quietly to Daddy.

You’re right but I’ve a feeling there is more than one miracle here today” he smiled as he lovingly touched first the scarf around his neck and then the one around his wife’s too.

Suddenly he recalled something and said: “Say, do you remember when you removed whatever was clenched in Mary’s hand earlier. What was that anyway?”

Oh! I completely forgot,” she smiled, and fished in her pocket until she found the piece of paper. Unfolding it, she spread it out on the dressing table so they could both read it together.

There was a prayer printed on it. Also written there, in their little girl’s baby handwriting were the words:

“Dear Jesus, please make Mammy and Daddy happy when I am gone. Your Daddy knows how much he missed you when you died.”

Reading these words their hands unconsciously sought one another, fingers interlacing. Then they read the prayer:

As I Daily Say This Little Prayer

Anonymous

A power greater, more loving than me

Has answered my unbelieving plea

Peace arrives upon this barren shore

From Him, whom I thought listened no more

Little by little comes serenity fair

As I daily say this little prayer:

Lord, Thy will be done not mine

May Your Love upon me shine!

Isn’t that a very adult prayer for a little girl of four to be saying,” Daddy said with misgivings he couldn’t hide, and with disappointment in his voice he continued “Even some of the words are ones she couldn’t know of, never mind know what they mean?”

They both fell into deep thought.

From the kitchen could be heard Mary’s voice singing out “Daddy and Mammy I’m making breakfast for us. Ok?”

Still they chose to stay where they were, pondering it all. Then Mammy began to speak slowly, hesitantly.

Maybe that prayer wasn’t meant for Mary. She has faith; as we both can plainly see.” Here she paused, her brow furrowed in thought, as she quietly repeated: “She already believes in the power of prayer. That’s obvious, honey.”

Then the true realisation dawned upon her and she suddenly smiled, hugging her husband intensely to her as she exclaimed, “It’s His other gift to us, my dearest love. It’s meant for us!”

They danced around the floor in delight before walking over to stand in front of the painting of Jesus. Inviting Mary and Pinnacle to join them they, as a family, humbly, happily recited the prayer together.

 

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