Christmas Morning Miracle
Shorter Version appears in A Christmas Filled With Miracles
by best selling author Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe""
Thirty years ago, we knew Christmas was going to be unusual, because my mother's husband, Jim, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my mother was having an on and off again attack of gallstones.
We prepared for an unusual, maybe even a depressing
Christmas holiday, but we were not prepared for the miraculous!
I was living on Vancouver Island, and not looking forward to leaving the comfort and festivities of my home and friends.
In the busy work day, I had to schedule in the thirty-five minutes to pack a suitcase and one hour for the beautiful drive, up the freeway to the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal, and wait for a ferry destined for Vancouver.
My plans were ticking along nicely, until I could not find my two cats.
My Shaded Silver Persians, Channel and Camelot, traveled in the car, but once again, they telepathically picked up that we were leaving for the Ferry and promptly hid.
I missed two Ferries hunting the cats out of their hiding places, because it took an additional two hours.
Before leaving the house on Christmas Eve, I quickly telephoned my best friend, Rita, and wished her a happy and a joyful holiday.
We had the habit of talking on the telephone several times a day -- which have added up to hours and days, cementing our business and friendship, over the years.
Finally the cats, suitcase and packages were in the car; I was ready to begin the trip of creating a new Christmas memory.
Because of the delay, locating the cats, I exceeded the speed limit for the usual one hour drive to the ferry terminal, and arrived in under forty minutes.
With the additional holiday traffic, we were forced to wait an additional two tedious hours watching Ferry after Ferry pull out. Everyone in the over sized parking lot wishing they were on each one.
I scanned the cold parking lot at the many vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
It was obvious they were journeying home to their loved ones for the holidays; their trucks and cars were packed with family, dogs and brightly decorated holiday wrappings.
They would walk by looking into my car and smile at the two cats sitting in the back window! The cats looked just like the puffy white cuffs on Santa's red suit jacket.
We pulled onto the Ferry at 6 o'clock with the proverbial boring ninety minute trip over the gray waters to Vancouver looming in front of us.
Just before 8 o'clock, the huge Ferry lumbered into the Vancouver dock, in the dark of the late evening.
It had begun to rain in gentle drops at first, but now I drove through torrential rain with the two cats meowing in the car's back window ledge.
The weather matched our moods.
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we only had fifteen minutes left of this memorable Christmas Eve drive.
I finally pulled into my mother's driveway and turned off the car.
For several moments, I gazed at the home, sparkling with its Christmas lights, reflecting on the home I had grown up in.
My sister was living 3,000 miles away in Northern Canada and my brother was in Australia; things have certainly changed over the years.
(In the last six years, my father and sister have since died...leaving their memories stamped on the house.)
How do things change so fast in our lives?
I felt trepidation, stepping into the home of my childhood, where we had all spent so many happy Christmases.
The cats immediately leaped for their freedom from the car and began to re-explore this familiar territory.
As I stepped through the back door, into the kitchen, Jim's pharmaceuticals stood in full view as soldiers of war against his illness.
No one was talking, my mother and Jim were both resting -- thinking their own sad thoughts. The heaviness of their health situation was everywhere.
It was as gloomy inside the house, as the weather was outside.
It seemed the spirit of Christmas had been left behind on the Island, with the joyful voices of my friends and neighbors.
We all went to bed early, around 9 o'clock. We could have watched TV until the early hours of the morning thinking, and rethinking the state of Jim's health, or we could find quiet relief in the passing of time during sleep.
I was dreading to wake up in the morning, reflecting on how the spirit of the holiday season had long since evaporated with the diagnosis of Jim's cancer.
He was such a kind man, the thought of him suffering overwhelmed us all.
I was the first one awake on Christmas morning. I looked over at the familiar digital bedroom clock, which had stood as a sentinel watching me grow from childhood to adulthood.
It was barely 7 A.M. on this day of magic for children around the world.
Everyone else was still silent and sleeping peacefully. I thought I would call Rita and hear a cheery holiday voice. Her children usually woke at 5 o'clock, so they would have been up for hours now.
What young child could sleep-in, knowing Santa had arrived sometime in the wee hours of the morning?
I dialed Rita's phone number -- long since memorized. My digit sought out the 1, then the area code, then the rest of her number.
She picked up the telephone and said, "Hello" in a weak-crackly voice, I thought, 'Oh no, what now! What else could possibly go wrong! Where was her sweet lyrical voice?'
I asked Rita if she was all right -- and this total stranger responded,
"Who is this?"
Definitely caught off guard, I also thought, 'who is this?'
Apparently, I woke up an elderly woman early on Christmas morning.
I apologized and she said, "Not to worry. It is nice to have someone to talk to, as I don't have anything to do today, or anyone to talk to."
My heart went out to this woman, and we started chatting. After all, everyone in my house was sleeping, and this woman had no one to talk to (neither did I) and she was obviously very alone and lonely.
I had dialed my friend's home long-distance, on Vancouver Island, so I was curious to know where this woman lived.
To this day, we cannot comprehend how this happened! This woman said she lived in a small apartment in Burnaby.
It was a local calling number. How had this phone call been rerouted to a total stranger? Their phone numbers were not even similar!
She said her name was Faith. She was almost eighty years old and her husband, Dick, had died seven years earlier.
Her neighbor, Robert, a young man in his twenties, usually spent the holidays with her, but this year he was out of town with his fiancée.
Faith went on to say, that she had no reason to get up at any specific time today, as she had no one to share Christmas with. She was glad I phoned, "A bit of a Christmas gift."
Her Christmas Day was unfolding worse than ours!
We had each other, and this is what Christmas is truly about.
Love for one another.
Faith and I talked for forty-five minutes. We were laughing and sharing. I heard all about her wonderful husband and their years together.
Just before 8 o'clock I asked her to hold a minute, as my mother was now stirring in her bedroom.
I asked my mother if Faith could come and share Christmas dinner with the remnants of our family.
My mother was not feeling well, but she has an understanding and kind heart. She said, "Yes, Faith would be welcome."
Initially, Faith had a long and lonely day looming ahead of her, and now it was a day to look forward to.
She was thrilled at the prospects of a true family Christmas.
Faith was not familiar with Greater Vancouver, so I gave her directions on how to come the fifteen miles via the bus from Burnaby, through Vancouver, over the bridge and up into North Vancouver to our family's home.
She hung up and contacted the bus station to see if the buses were running, as it was Christmas Day, and it was snowing.
I hung up and thought, what kind of woman had I just spontaneously invited to share dinner?
Faith later shared that while she was on the bus, winding through town, she was the only passenger on the large empty bus, wondering if she made the right decision to leave the safety of her home on the snowy roads and venture out to a total stranger's house.
No one knew she had left or where she was going.
Faith had to make three different bus connections.
After twenty minutes on the third bus, she was reminiscing as she watched houses, with their Christmas lights up and families gathering, rushing by her, and she started to worry.
She had seen slums, poor homes, apartments, and middle class homes, and she was getting nervous.
Faith told the bus driver of her mystery morning phone call that led her out on her adventure today. She wanted someone to know in case she disappeared.
The bus driver had no idea he was delivering a Christmas miracle.
Faith showed him our address and he turned to her and said, "You will be fine in that neighborhood."
But, she was still concerned as she had no idea who we were any more than we did her.
Mean while, our formerly dreary home changed. We plugged in the brightly decorated Christmas tree, with all its shiny baubles of years-gone-by memories.
My mother put on a festive long skirt, and bless Jim's heart, he mustered enough strength to put on a bright red shirt.
The whole atmosphere of our home had shifted, and become one of joy.
We excitedly awaited the arrival of our Christmas guest.
I shoveled the snow off the driveway and then stepped back into the house.
The aroma of the cooking holiday turkey wafted through the house.
This delicious fragrance has imprinted us all with the deep cellular memory of "Christmas."
Twenty minutes later, the time arrived for me to drive to the bottom of the hill and pick up our Christmas mystery guest at the bus stop.
And there she was, ever so slowly, climbing off the bus.
What a sweet face! Faith looked up at me and visibly relaxed.
We smiled at each other and I took the gift of her home to my Mother and Jim.
As I grew up, I used to bring stray animals home to my mother, but this was a whole new perspective of sharing.
We had the nicest time, a great meal, lots of laughs; at 9 o'clock it was time to drive Faith home to Burnaby.
But...I want to share something miraculous with you, something so unexplainable, even I cannot believe what was about to take place, even after all these years!
I am not making this up; I could not have thought of something so incredible.
Following is what happens when you live in the World of Miracles.
We had our coats on, standing by the front door, and my mother and Faith were saying Good-bye when suddenly my mother realized we had not shared last names with Faith.
My mother said, "What is your last name?" Faith replied, "Holden."
My mother looked rather irritated, it must have been her gallstones, and said, "No, that is my last name, what is your last name?"
All of us had the shock of our lives.
Faith looked confused and repeated with great patience, "That is MY last name. Holden. H-o-l-d-e-n."
We had the same last name, Holden, spelled the exact same way!
Usually the last name is spelled with an "o" it is a very rare spelling to have it with an "e."
How had we been divinely put together with someone with the same family name?
It was as if the universe was saying,
"Your family is not always one by birth,
but by Divine appointment."
Shocked we sat on the couch bundled in our winter coats. AND... this was not the last surprise for us this Christmas day, as Faith went on to describe her life sitting in our living room, beside the ticking grandfather clock.
Faith continued on -- she had been married to a man from England, as my mother currently was.
Both families then traveled from England to Winnipeg, Canada. Faith's husband, and my mother's husband, were the second child of four children, and none of these siblings, once married, had ever had a child.
Jim and Faith's husband had the same combination of brothers and sisters...in the same birth order.
Faith and my mother went to the same high school, so many coincidences came one after the other.
It was as if my mother and Faith were reading from the same note book of life, and they were just ticking off one similar experience after another.
How is it possible to dial a long distant number, on Christmas morning, and get someone locally, who needed us -- and we needed them?
It is unbelievably mysterious -- it became evident that God works overtime on Christmas; how else could I have possibly connected to a "family" member with the same family name?
It is a Christmas and a miracle I will never forget!
Dearest Readers, I have been sending this Christmas miracle story to you traditionally since 1996, and recently learned from my mother that Faith's number was UNLISTED!
Even if we had wanted to find her, we would have had no way to! This only added more mystery to our Christmas Morning Miracle!
May your days be filled with miracles
and you be surrounded by people you love!
Blessings to you and your loved ones,
Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"