Today is the last part of this story. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave me a comment, or contact me on Facebook and let me know what you thought.
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Tomorrow Nugget Nate makes his return so check back to see what kind of Trouble he can get into at Christmas. Without further ado- the ending of Healing Santa.
The little girl lay in a hospital crib. Her head was wrapped in a huge white bandage to cover the newly-made incision that had barely even had time to begin healing. An IV was attached to her forehead. Sitting beside the crib in a rocking chair was the young mother. Her eyes said it all. Gerald saw everything in those eyes he himself had gone through last year: pain, shock, denial, fear, and a heart that wanted to hope but was trying to protect itself from the worst.
“Merry Christmas, Darlene. I’m glad my Santa knowledge helped me find you.”
The little girl struggled to sit up. She looked at her mother and then pointed to the most famous man in the whole wide world. She opened her mouth and cried, “Santa!”
Tears flowed from every pair of eyes in the room except the littlest set. They were too busy shining with the joy that the man in the big red suit brought to so many children. Again Santa swallowed the lump in his throat. “That’s right, sweetheart. I heard you had been sick and that the nice doctors and nurses here were trying to make you better.”
The little girl touched her bandage and frowned. “Owwies.”
Gerald walked closer to the crib and looked at the mother for permission. The young lady stood and nodded her head. Santa dropped his bag and gently reached in and picked up the sick little child and, holding her close, sat down in the rocking chair. “Yes, I know it hurts, little one. The doctors had to cut out the bad stuff that was making you sick. But now you are going to get better.”
He softly placed his hand on the side of her head where the bandage was thickest and started praying a prayer he’d thought he’d given up hope of ever working. He prayed softly but with all his heart and passion for little Darlene to be healed. When he was done, he looked at the little girl whose right hand was curled up in a fist and whose left hand was playing in his beard. “Now then, Darlene, I want you to know that Santa loves you very much, but my friend Jesus, He loves you even more. I am going to keep asking Him to help you get all better and I expect you to be a good girl till you get to go home. Help Mommy and don’t make things too hard for her, okay?”
The little one looked at him and just stared. Which was fine by him, two words were enough for her first day. “Now let’s see what is in my magic bag for you.” He stood and handed the girl to her mother and made a big show of kneeling down and opening his sack. He pulled the giant bear out and the little girl’s eyes got even wider if that was possible and she giggled and pointed at the pink and white monstrosity. He sat that in her crib and reached in again and pulled out the blocks as well. “I think that’s all Santa has for you, my dear. Now you remember our deal and be a good girl for Mommy and the doctors and nurses.”
He reached down and stroked the girl’s check. Darlene started pushing away from her mother and pointing to the crib. Her mother relented and placed the child back in and pulled up the rail. The little girl scooted herself up against the giant bear and laid down. Before their very eyes, she drifted off to sleep, her little hand rubbing the pink and white fur of the leg she was using as a pillow.
The mother turned to look at the other two, Santa and helper. “Thank you so much. I was beside myself when they flew us out here. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear or go through. Her doctor told us she just had a virus. Then because she kept smacking her head and saying ‘owie,’ they ran an MRI last week and showed us a huge tumor they said it had to come out right away and because of the size they were pretty sure it was cancerous. They sent a piece of it off to biopsy today, but put the tube in her head to be able to attack what’s left with chemo. I didn’t even get to bring either of us a change of clothes.”
Valerie took the woman in an embrace. She held on tightly, and then after a moment let go.
“Where is Darlene’s Daddy?”
“He’s making the arrangements to take off from work. He was here for the surgery but had to go back to work. I’m hoping he will be here in the next few days.”
“Well, this is my card,” Valerie stated, presenting the business card to the woman. ”Our church has an apartment that we use for visiting missionaries and such. I’ll check, but I’m sure we can put you and your husband up there for the time being. We’re only ten minutes from the hospital here.”
“That would be wonderful. With Peter not being able to work, it is going to make things tight on us.”
Gerald had stuck his hands in his pants pocket while the women were talking and was surprised to feel the bank envelope in it. He didn’t remember placing it there. He knew a God thing when he felt it. “I’m sure it will be. This isn’t much, but it will at least help you all some with gas and food and such while you’re here.” He handed the envelope to the young mother.
“Oh, I couldn’t, you all have done so much already. Just to see her happy for a minute and to talk.”
Tears pooled again in the young woman’s eyes.
“Please take the money. You don’t know what it would mean to me. See, my wife passed six months ago from cancer in this very hospital. I have been a mess since then, but God called me to come play Santa for these kids. I have a very special connection with your daughter. See my wife…”
Gerald choked up and Valerie put her arm around him and finished what he had been about to say. “Her name was Darlene, too.”
The young mother’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’m so sorry, it must have been terribly difficult to come in here.”
Gerald shook his head and cleared his throat as tears rolled unchecked down his cheeks. “Not at all. I think God allowed it and arranged it to give me a closer look and kick start me to living again.” He took the card that Valerie had given the young mother and added his name and cell number to the back. “Anything you or that little girl needs while you’re here, you call me. I mean it now. I’m going to come check on y’all too if that’s all right with you.”
The young mother smiled. “Of course it is. Thank you all again, and please thank your church for helping do this. I know it helped Darlene. I’m sure it encouraged the other children and their families, too.”
“We hope so.” Valerie looked at the sleeping child and the weary mother. “We’ve kept you long enough. We’ll leave and let you get some rest, you must be exhausted.”
The young women hugged like old friends and then to Gerald’s shock, the young mother embraced him as well. “Thank you, Santa, this is a good memory I can hold on to in all this.”
With that, they left. Valerie stopped and said goodbye to the nursing staff, who thanked them for all the toys and the visit. Gerald thanked them for allowing him to be apart of it. Then they headed to the elevator. Just before getting on, Santa turned and bellowed out, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Then he stepped into the elevator and the doors closed as they started their descent. Valerie looked at him and placed a hand on his arm. “Are you okay, Gerald? I know that had to be difficult on you.”
Gerald patted her hand. “Thank you, Valerie, but I am okay. For the first time in a long time, I feel alive again. It truly is going to be a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
One Year Later
It took time, but Gerald had finally begun to heal after the encounter with Darlene and her family. True to his word, he had checked in on the little girl throughout her stay at the cancer center. But like most relationships built of tragedy and need, he’d lost touch with them after Darlene’s release and return to her home. He had felt truly blessed to have seen God bring that little child through her cancer, and he hoped that her physical and occupational therapy had helped her regain the use of her arm and leg after she got home.
True to his word, Mr. Johnson had insisted that Gerald return to the mall as its official Santa this year. Gerald was pleased to comply. After his stint as the church’s Santa, he had added the Love of God story to his Santa statements to the children who came to see him. It had been a good year and now here on Christmas Eve, he was just getting ready to put away the suit after a long day of seeing kids when one of his coworkers knocked on his dressing room door. “Hey, Gerald, there is a lady and kid out here that insist they need to see Santa. I told them you had left for the North Pole but the woman says her daughter refuses to see any other Santa.”
Gerald buttoned up his suit jacket. “It’s fine, Brenda, I haven’t gotten undressed yet anyway.”
Gerald went through the door to the “throne room” to see a cute little girl with curly blond hair waiting for him. There was something familiar about her, but Gerald couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He’d seen thousands of kids this season alone, not counting the seasons past. As much as he hated to admit it, after a while all the children start to look familiar. The child saw him and burst out in a smile. “Look, Mommy, it’s him. It’s Santa!”
The little girl did a shuffling run and threw her arms around his thighs, which was as high as her little arms could reach.
“I see that, baby.” The mother replied with relief in her voice.
Gerald looked up and took in the stroller and before he could lock in on the mother his eyes were drawn to the ragged pink and white, four-foot-tall teddy bear sitting in it. His eyes went back to the little one hugging his legs. “Hello, Darlene, my goodness I’m happy to see you.”
Santa knelt down and took the little girl in his arms. “I almost didn’t recognize you with all this hair.”
The little girl latched onto his neck with both hands and hugged him tight. “I found you! I knew we would.”
Gerald’s face must have shown his confusion as Darlene’s mom told him the tale.
“Her Daddy took her to our local mall to see Santa but she refused. She told him that man wasn’t Santa. We’ve taken her to every Santa in our area and she refused to see any of them. She told us they weren’t Santa. We tried to explain they all worked for Santa, but she insisted that her Santa was the only person she would see. She kept telling us Santa had given her Pinky and he would want to know she was being a good girl. I finally called Valerie at the church and she told me you were here so I drove down today. We just got here and they said you’d just left for the year. I’m glad we caught you.”
“Me too! How are you doing, Darlene? I see you’re walking pretty good.”
“I is ‘kay. My fingers don’t work all time but Mr. Henry is helping me work on them.”
“That’s good, sweetie. Now what did you need to tell Santa?”
The little girl whispered in his ear, “I want a real puppy for Christmas.”
Gerald struggled not to laugh. “Well, sweetie, I don’t know, a puppy is a lot of work.”
He looked at the mother, whose face showed that this request wasn’t a surprise. He mouthed a “What do you want me to say?” to her. The young woman nodded her head and held up a thumb, giving him permission. “Since you’ve worked so hard and done so good, I’ll see if I can bring you a puppy tomorrow for Christmas. “
He sat the little girl down and pointed a gloved finger at her. “But if I do, you have to promise me you’ll help Mommy and Daddy take care of it.”
The little girl nodded. “I pwomise.”
“Okay then, I’ll see if I have one in my workshop.”
They spent a few more minutes together and then Santa put Darlene in her stroller. “You and Mommy need to go home and I have to head to the North Pole and get ready to deliver all those presents. Okay?”
“’Kay, Santa, I wuv you!”
“I love you, too, Darlene, and you remember my friend Jesus loves you, too. “
The daughter and mother said their final goodbyes and Gerald headed back to change and head home. His heart rose a little lighter with the little girl’s “I wuv you” still ringing in his heart.