“I didn’t get a chance to see the fire engine this year,” she said, her voice carrying regret and sadness. My sister in law’s cancer had come back and their life was once again filled with endless rounds of chemo, waiting rooms and doctor visits. They were fighting against a foe they couldn’t see, and they were using every resource they had.
They found themselves balanced once again between two worlds, before cancer and after cancer. BC and AC I guess you could say. They snatched up joy where they could find it. Lori was the best at that. Treatments might have made her weaker in body but never in spirit.
My brother never left her side. Everything she wanted, she got. When she said she was hungry for vanilla and chocolate swirl pudding cups, he made a midnight run to the store. And even when he brought it home and she said it made her nauseous, he would go back within an hour if she said she wanted something else.
At that particular moment though, all she wanted was to see the fire truck.
Each year in our hometown, the fire department would decorate one of their engines to the hilt. With colored lights flashing and Christmas carols spilling out of the speakers and Santa waving from the top, they would travel through town the whole month of December. And Lori always looked forward to seeing it.
My brother couldn’t bear her disappointment in such a small thing, not when she was fighting the toughest battle she would ever have to fight. With high hopes he placed a call to my Dad, whose good friend was a fireman.
His friend in turn called the fire chief, who regretfully informed him that they had packed it up for that year, and with sinking heart, he called my brother back.
But in between that time another call was made, explaining the gravity of the situation to the chief. And we were all praying for a miracle, hoping against hope he would change his mind. The phone rang hopeful and it was good news on the other end.
“The fire chief says it’s a go!”
He hung up and called my brother back, who wept on the other end of the phone.
That night, people converged on the church parking lot from all directions. Everyone wanted to be a part of bringing Christmas to Lori. Rich, my Dad’s friend was suited up like Santa in the driver’s seat. The rest of us donned Santa hats and clambered aboard the over-crowded engine. I don’t think even the fire marshall would’ve prevented anyone from getting on that over taxed engine that night, no matter how over-crowded. Colored lights flashed and the siren screamed as we headed out to the edge of town, out to their house.
The look on her face as she came out the door was one of those magic moments forever frozen in time; and when we gathered in a circle and sang “Silent Night” after we prayed, so many of us were crying we could barely squeak a note out.
My brother had wrapped Lori in a blanket and as she stood in front of him wrapped in his love, I just know I saw angels reflected on her face.
Heaven touched earth that night and everyone there sensed it. We had a hand in a small miracle, and when it comes right down to it, who’s to judge the size of a miracle anyway?
That was Lori’s last Christmas, her next was spent in Heaven.
She died later that same year, peacefully at home with a smile on her face. One minute she was gazing into the faces of her loved ones, and the next minute gazing at the face of Jesus welcoming her into her Heavenly home.
Another Holy night.