It’s Christmas Eve and we’re shopping, piling rolls of paper and chocolates and candy canes, stopping now to let Mum rest, and then on to the rows of Pillsbury dough and eggnog. She’s getting that look, the one that says we need to go home so she can sleep, but we haven’t even started on main gifts, let alone dinner.

She laughs as we pull her to the rusted van, sister and I caring for 53-year-old mother who home-schooled us long and made us homemade bread, now confined to a seven-year brain tumor. The snow is falling. Mum reaches out, shaky. The flakes melt fast to her skin, making her sparkle. We sing carols in the car on the way home and Mum’s cheeks are red as Rudolph, her eyes like a robin’s egg.

Mum’s got a glazed look now, and I know it will be hard to get her out of the car and into bed. At home we pull covers tight, pray angels be near and dreams be kind, and may she wake to attend the candlelight service – the same service we attended as children with our other siblings, dressed in outfits Mum had sewn herself, too poor to buy anything new. I’ll never forget my red velvet dress with the white lace collar and how fancy I felt in my eight-year-old skin.

The front door shuts, Dad shakes snow from the hat he’s worn for 20 years and we watch him as he climbs stairs, tired. He looks at us and we say, “She’s down for a nap,” and he swallows.

“How is she?”

“A bit fuzzy,” I say, and he nods. Maybe we should decorate the tree.

But Allison insists on waiting for our sister and brother to arrive. I call up my husband and he brings the turkey. I baste it and stuff it and prep it for tomorrow’s feast, for as much as Mum is fuzzy, tomorrow’s Christmas, and I’m hoping for a miracle.

(won’t you follow me, here, for the rest of this story, a re-post which originally appeared in Focus on the Family magazine last year? merry christmas, my beautiful friends… see you in a couple of weeks!!)

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