Christmas is near, but Lisa has nothing to feel cheerful about. Then she meets a stranger
A Christmas To Remember
Christmas was just ten days away, but Lisa knew there would be no Christmas for her this year, nor did she think there would be one for several years, if ever. She fought hard to hold back the unshed tears, telling herself there would be time for that later. Right now, she needed to be strong for many reasons.
At first glance, she appeared to be alright. But a closer examination would reveal that while her hair looked freshly combed, it didn’t have a shine to it. Her makeup seemed to have been applied haphazardly, with no care to impress others. Her eyes looked a little swollen and bloodshot, not quite sunken in her head. But it was easy to see that she may be experiencing major, life changing issues.
She was sitting in her local Starbucks, nursing her favorite hot beverage. She found it a bit amusing that she detested the taste of coffee, but loved her Skinny Caramel Macchiato. She could blame her husband Mark for that. They had met 3 years ago, and on their first date he had taken her to a Starbucks. She tried to tell him how much she detested coffee. She not only detested it, the very smell of it repulsed her. But he hadn’t understood, and took her there anyway. She was surprised at how delicious his drink smelled after he received it, even more so when she asked if she could taste it. That was all it took, she was hooked. Maybe that one little experience helped cement their love, she never knew.
“Excuse me, but may I sit here?” An older man stood next to her table, his whiskered face slowly filling with a light red blush. “All the other tables are filled with couples and you’re alone. I’d just like to sit if I may.”
The last thing Lisa wanted was company, but something compelled her to smile at the man. “Please be seated sir. I may not be good company, but of course you’re welcome to sit with me.”
“Thank you. I’m Christopher.”
“My name is Lisa, nice to meet you Christopher.”
“Now why wouldn’t a pretty lass like yourself be good company? I don’t mean to sound forward, but look at you. You are young, and frankly, you look beautiful if you ask me.”
“You don’t want to hear about my problems, and if I start talking about it, I might break down and cry.” Lisa looked down as she spoke, her voice trailing off to a soft whisper, pain evident in every word.
“I can be quiet if you like. But I know talking does help sometimes.”
“No, you don’t have to sit there quietly, I’m fine.”
“Okay. So, my favorite question to ask this time of year. Are you ready for Christmas?”
Lisa’s eyes brimmed with tears as she looked up. Seeing her face, Christopher reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. Handing it to Lisa, he spoke softly. “It’s okay to cry Lisa.”
Shaking her head, Lisa said, “No, I can’t cry, not yet. There will be time for that later.”
Christopher sipped at his coffee and waited. He knew she would open up and talk if given enough time.
Lisa took a deep breath and looked around. Everyone in the store was talking loudly, chattering on about Christmas, shopping, their preparations for the coming holidays. For the life of her, she couldn’t see a reason to feel happy right now. She looked back at Christopher and noticed him looking at her intently. Seeming to come to a decision, she took a deep breath.
“I’m not ready for Christmas, nor will I be. Not this year, not any year in the near future if you ask me.”
Silence fell between them for a moment as each sipped on their hot beverage. Lisa looked around the Starbucks again, as if trying to gain courage.
“My husband and I have been trying to have children since we were married three years ago. We finally decided to have some tests done. We were given the results a month ago. It’s not his fault, that man’s as virile as a breeding stallion. But I’m barren!”
Saying that little bit, Lisa finally broke down, tears coursing down her face, smearing her makeup. Sobs wracked her body as she finally allowed herself to face the truth. Christopher looked on, distress written on his face. He reached over and touched Lisa’s hand. “Lisa, are you sure? Have you had other testing done, had this confirmed?” Christopher’s voice was soft and soothing, like a calm wind on a stormy day. Despite her tears, Lisa couldn’t help but feel better, the pressure and pain of realizing she’d never have children slowly receding to her inner self again.
“Yes, we were sent to another doctor to get a second opinion. His tests were more extensive, and confirmed our doctor’s analysis.” Sobs threatened to hit her again, but she stiffened her resolve, refusing to be beat down again by her situation.
“Why am I telling you all this? Christopher, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t be burdening you with my problems. I’m sure you have enough of your own.” Looking at him closely for the first time, she saw a middle aged man, sparse gray whiskers covering his face. His eyes were bright, full of intelligence. Dressed in faded jeans and a long coat, he looked almost homeless. At first glance Lisa would have thought that, but he looked too well-groomed to be a homeless person.
“Lisa, I’ve been around a while, I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. Sometimes, talking seems to help. Especially talking to a stranger. Confiding in a close friend can be scary, I know. But a stranger? It’s easier if you ask me, because since we don’t know each other, there’s no expectations.”
Looking at him again, Lisa said, “I think you may be right there.” Once again her eyes clouded over and she looked down. “But my problem isn’t the worst part of it all.” Now her voice dropped again, barely a whisper that seemed to contain tears in every breath. Taking a deep breath, she said, “My husband hasn’t been feeling well for the last few weeks. Nothing we can put our fingers on, he’s just not been feeling well. Headaches, which he never suffered from are now common. Last week, he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.”
At this point, Lisa’s voice stopped entirely, her eyes focused on a distant point on the floor. Christopher watched as she seemingly crumpled, almost shrinking in front of his eyes as she once again sobbed. He moved next to her and placed an arm around her shoulders. Holding her like a father holds his daughter, he rocked slowly from side to side, muttering softly under his breath. Unable to help herself, Lisa threw her arms around him as she sobbed into his chest. Eventually, Lisa’s sobs quieted, then ceased altogether. She looked around somewhat embarrassed by her outbreak, and was relieved to see that no one seemed to have noticed her crying.
Sitting up straight, she looked at Christopher, her eyes lit with a peaceful glow. “I’m so sorry Christopher! I never should have laid all my problems on you… But somehow, I don’t know, I’ve never confided in anyone like this, why you?”
Christopher looked at her, a bemused expression on his face. “Didn’t I tell you it’s easier to talk to a stranger?”
“Talk yes. Confide your worst fears, the worst news you’ve ever heard. Breakdown like I did?”
“We all have our moments of weakness my dear. It’s good to have someone there to help when that happens.”
Lisa surprised herself by chuckling a little when she said, “I bet you never expected this when you asked if you could sit next to me.”
“Well, to be honest, I didn’t. But I’m glad I could be here for you when you needed someone.”
“What were you saying while I was sobbing almost hysterically against your chest? I couldn’t make out the words, but somehow, they comforted me.”
“Nothing at all really. I was just reciting a small verse my mother would sing to me when I was a little boy.”
“Will you recite it again? Please?”
Looking at Lisa he blushed a little. “She always told me it was a small verse her mother would sing to her when she was troubled. I’ve never forgotten it, and it did seem to help you.”
Lisa continued to look at him, waiting to hear the verse again. Finally he spoke in a soft, quiet voice.
“Hush my child, don’t you cry.
I will care for you til tomorrow’s nigh.
Let your problems flow from you to me.
Relax, feel them go, feel them flee.
All will be well, everything’s alright.
I have them now, they are gone in the night.
“Wow Christopher! That is beautiful! I love it! May I sing it to my chil….” At this, Lisa stopped, her face once again threatening to crumble in tears, reality coming back to slap her.
“Shhhh, it’s okay. You sing it whenever you want, it helps me when I need a lift. Maybe it will help you.”
“You know what? You remind me of someone.”
“You mean Santa Claus? I get that sometimes, especially at this time of year.”
“No Christopher, you remind me of that movie star from the Jurassic Park series, Sir Richard Attenborough.”
Christopher looked at her and laughed. What started out as a small chuckle erupted into loud laughter, with Christopher holding his stomach as he laughed. Lisa was surprised to find herself chuckling too. And for the first time, the rest of the people in Starbucks were staring at them. Suddenly, it seemed as if everyone in the store was laughing with them. Finally it faded away, and Christopher wiped his eyes. “I’m sorry Lisa, I never expected you to say that. It hit my funny bone just right.”
Suddenly Lisa’s face lit with joy and she gently pushed past Christopher. “Mark! Why are you here? You’re supposed to be home resting honey.”
The young couple hugged for a moment before turning to Christopher. “Christopher, this is my husband Mark.” Turning back to her husband she said, “Mark, this is Christopher. I didn’t mean to, but I’ve been crying on his shoulder most of the time.”
“Lisa, I told you everything would be alright, that we’d be fine.”
“I know honey, you’re such an optimist.”
Mark and Christopher shook hands warmly, each saying how nice it was to meet. While the men became acquainted, Lisa went to the counter and ordered Mark his own Skinny Caramel Macchiato. When she returned, the men were talking as if they were lifelong friends. A few minutes later Christopher looked at them and said, “Forgive me, but I do need to get going. I have a few errands to run today before going home to nap.”
As they stood, both of them hugged Christopher. Lisa handed him a small slip of paper. “That’s our phone number and e-mail addresses. Please stay in touch.”
“To be honest, I’m not into today’s technology much. I prefer face to face meetings. I’m old fashioned like that. But maybe I can change. It’s been a pleasure meeting you both today. Do take care, and I’ll see you here again I hope.”
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Three months later…..
“Mark and Lisa, I called you here today, but frankly, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
Concern was immediately etched across Lisa’s face. “What is it doctor?”
“Well, the most recent tests we did show no sign of cancer in Mark!”
The couple sat there stunned, unable to speak.
Nine months after the doctor's news.….
“Lisa, Mark, say hello to your new daughter, born at 12:01 AM, Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!”