December 26, 2009


My father was diagnosed with cancer almost 2 years ago and through the really, really hard times, I tried to keep my sanity by writing. Your site on grief made me cry, but also made me realize that I am definitely not alone as I'm dealing with my father's cancer. I'd like to share a letter that I wrote late one night when my father was going in for his 4th brain surgery.

Dear Dad,

I want to say thank you for being such a wonderful father. Though you've brought us many a struggle with your various ailments over the years, you've taught me more about life than any other experience could have. It's been tough. You've thrown more at me than I ever thought my 21 years could handle. You've taught me that nightmares can come true.

Finding out that you have terminal stage IV cancer, out of nowhere, on Christmas Day; what does one even do with that as part of reality? But it was from that pit of desperation and fear that hope somehow sprang forth. My life did not end at that moment and neither did yours.

Dad, you've taught me what heroes are made of: how to go in and do what you have to do, even when it's hard and scary and you know it's going to be painful. As I sat at your feet through many chemo sessions, I saw an incredible person. I learned how precious life is. It was worth the toxic chemicals that were pumped into your vein. It was worth the horrible side effects including loss of hair, strength, and abscessing finger nails.

As I am constantly immersing myself in the world of medicine as a pharmacy major, you've taught me to always remember the personal aspect of what I will soon be calling my career; the part that seems to get lost amid the exams, labs, and lectures. This is what pharmacy is about, people like you, Dad, who are alive today because of what I read in my textbooks.

You've taught me that world isn't about money. What good is a 401K that gives you 10 million at age 60 if you die at 59? Life is too precious, too unpredictable, to be put on hold for 40 years.

You've taught me never to give up...even when it seems that all odds are against you and medical professionals only give you a few months to live. Don't believe in anyone who doesn't believe in you. As long as their is a tiny chance, you can be the exception because you are like no one else. But, you've also taught me not to fear death. Fight the good fight, but know that you can never beat God.

Dad, you've taught me how amazing and resistant the human body can be. Surgeons have opened you up and touched your lungs, heart, and brain...and they are still working enough to sustain life. God has done an incredible job in creating us, why mistreat this wonderful gift? No one is made perfect though. True beauty is shown on the inside.

As I look at you now, Dad, I don't see the pale, bald, slow man before me, I see my father; the person who taught me how to ride a two wheeler, and how to drive a standard shift car. The person who drove me to swim meets and sat there for hour upon boring hour in the hot, humid pool bleachers, never complaining. The person who built my loft freshman year at college in the hundred degree heat. The person who went to work everyday, even though he felt physically worse than I could ever imagine, to his daughter a wonderful chance at a promising future. That's who I see--and that whom I see is the most beautiful person I can imagine.

Though it's been hard getting through the days after learning of your diagnosis, I'm thankful that from this disease I have grown to appreciate every day of my life at such a young age.


--- Christine M. Walko --- Pennsylvania

December 25, 2009


It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree at this time of the year for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it. You know, the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner city church. The kids were mostly black.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without head gear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously couldn't afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids-all kids. He understood kids in competitive situations, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year sending a group of mentally challenged youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas - on and on...

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. Still, the story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. Yet Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further, with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation, watching as their fathers take down their envelopes.

Mike's spirit, like the spirit of Christmas, will always be with us.

MERRY CHRISTMAS dear reader and friend...May the love that came down that first Christmas fill your heart and mind today and always.

December 24, 2009


Bobby was getting cold sitting out in his back yard in the snow. Bobby didn't wear boots; he didn't like them and anyway he didn't own any. The thin sneakers he wore had a few holes in them and they did a poor job of keeping out the cold.

Bobby had been in his backyard for about an hour already. And, try as he might, he could not come up with an idea for his mother's Christmas gift. He shook his head as he thought, "This is useless, even if I do come up with an idea, I don't have any money to spend."

Ever since his father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. It wasn't because his mother didn't care, or try, there just never seemed to be enough. She worked nights at the hospital, but the small wage that she was earning could only be stretched so far.

What the family lacked in money and material things, they more than made up for in love and family unity. Bobby had two older and one younger sister, who ran the household in their mother's absence.

All three of his sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother. Somehow it just wasn't fair. Here it was Christmas Eve already, and he had nothing.

Wiping a tear from his eye, Bobby kicked the snow and started to walk down to the street where the shops and stores were. It wasn't easy being six without a father, especially when he needed a man to talk to.

Bobby walked from shop to shop, looking into each decorated window. Everything seemed so beautiful and so out of reach. It was starting to get dark and Bobby reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun's rays reflecting off of something along the curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime.

Never before has anyone felt so wealthy as Bobby felt at that moment. As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when salesperson after salesperson told him that he could not buy anything with only a dime.

He saw a flower shop and went inside to wait in line. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother's Christmas gift. The shop owner looked at Bobby and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby's shoulder and said to him, "You just wait here and I'll see what I can do for you."

As Bobby waited, he looked at the beautiful flowers and even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers.

The sound of the door closing as the last customer left, jolted Bobby back to reality. All alone in the shop, Bobby began to feel alone and afraid.

Suddenly the shop owner came out and moved to the counter. There, before Bobby's eyes, lay twelve long stem, red roses, with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. Bobby's heart sank as the owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box.

"That will be ten cents young man." the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime. Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this be true? No one else would give him a thing for his dime! Sensing the boy's reluctance, the shop owner added, "I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?"

This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, "Merry Christmas, son."

As he returned inside, the shop keepers wife walked out. "Who were you talking to back there and where are the roses you were fixing?"

Staring out the window, and blinking the tears from his own eyes, he replied, "A strange thing happened to me this morning. While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn't sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway. Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with one small dime.

"When I looked at him, I saw myself, many years ago. I too, was a poor boy with nothing to buy my mother a Christmas gift. A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars.

"When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew who that voice was, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses."

The shop owner and his wife hugged each other tightly, and as they stepped out into the bitter cold air, they somehow didn't feel cold at all.

-Author Unknown-

December 23, 2009


Once upon a time, a man punished his five-year-old daughter for using up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper before Christmas.Money was tight, so he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve, he saw that the child had used the expensive gold paper to decorate a large shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!”

As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her.

But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. “Don’t you know, young lady,” he said harshly, “when you give someone a present there’s supposed to be something inside the package!”

The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: “Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.”

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.

An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us as human beings have been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God.

There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

Dear friends,

I don’t know if the following story is true, but whether or not it actually happened, it is a wonderfully inspiring Christmas story. In this season of love, may we all remember the beautiful love of a small child. I wish you all a meaningful and love-filled holiday season and new year ahead. May your days be filled with love, joy, growth, and inspiration.

With boundless love and joy,

December 22, 2009


Snowflakes softly falling, upon your window they play.
Your blanket is snug around you, into sleep you drift away.

I bend to gently kiss you, when I see that on the floor,
There's a letter neatly written, I wonder whom it's for.

I quietly unfold it, making sure you're still asleep.
It's a Christmas list for Santa; one my heart will always keep.

It started just as always, with the toys seen on TV,
A new watch for your father and a winter coat for me.

But as my eyes read on, I could see that deep inside,
There were many things you wished for, that your loving heart would hide.

You asked if your friend Molly could have another Dad.
It seems her father hits her, and it makes you very sad.

Then you asked dear Santa, if the neighbor down the street,
Could find a job that he might have some food, and clothes, and heat.

You saw a family on the news, whose house had blown away.
"Dear Santa, send them just one thing, a place where they can stay."

"And Santa, those four cookies, that I left you for a treat,
Could you take them to the children, who have nothing else to eat?"

"Do you know that little bear I have, the one I love so dear?
I'm leaving it for you to take to Africa this year".

"And as you fly your reindeer, on this night of Jesus' birth,
Could your magic bring to everyone, goodwill and peace on earth?"

"There's one last thing before you go, so grateful I would be,
If you'd smile at Baby Jesus, in the manger by our tree."

I pulled the letter close to me, I felt it melt my heart.
Those tiny hands had written what no other could impart.

"And a little child shall lead them," was whispered in my ear,
As I watched you sleep on Christmas Eve, while Santa Claus was her

December 21, 2009


It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store.

Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered.

My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if didn't buy them anything.

Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.

In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face.

She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily.

When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure.

The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said. The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12. "I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said.

"We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow." With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes, " she cried. "Well, we'll go home and work some more. Don't cry. We'll come back," he said.

Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you lady."

"What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked.

The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus." The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes."

"Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?"

My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes" I answered, "I am sure she will."

Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving." 'Tis the Season!! Remember that it's better to give than receive.

December 20, 2009


I have a little story I thought I would share with all of you. I recently relocated, bought a house and moved in the first weekend of July.

Since I have been in my new neighborhood, I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of my neighbors who seem to be extremely nice people. For Christmas, I thought I would do something nice for each of the neighbors that I know. I sat down and counted. There were nine neighbors whom I knew by name or spoke with often when I was out in my yard. I also knew which houses they lived in.

I decided to add one more person to my list for a total of ten. This lady that I decided to add lives down the street from me. I meet her every morning walking to work as I drive down the street. She always manages a contagious smile and a hearty wave. I had no idea what her name was and not even sure which house she lived in.

My gift idea was to make small fruit baskets and leave them on each of my neighbor's front porches or door steps the night of Christmas Eve for them to find, either that night or the next morning. I signed the cards: "Happy Holidays from 5104 Northumberland Road."

I saved the friendly lady for last, since I was still not exactly sure where she lived. I finally decided upon a house down about where I met her each morning and felt relatively sure that it was hers.

My neighbors really appreciated the baskets and would tell me as they saw me in the yard or they would call, and a couple even came by to thank me.

This morning on my way to work, I placed my mail in the mailbox and noticed a small note inside. It was addressed simply -- Resident, 5104 Northumberland Road.

I opened the envelope and took out a Thank You card. I opened the card and read the message which really caught me by surprise.

The card said. "Thank you for the lovely fruit basket you left on the porch of Richard Kelly. It was very thoughtful. Richard Kelly passed away on January 19, 1999. He never stopped talking about how nice it was that someone remembered him in his time of illness. He really appreciated it."

I was sincerely stunned. I had no idea who Richard Kelly was or that he had been gravely ill. I had left that nice lady's basket on Mr. Kelly's porch by accident. I wanted to say by mistake, but that would be wrong. I believe that Richard Kelly was meant to have that basket and the Lord knew that he only had less than a month to live. I hate that the nice lady did not get to receive a fruit basket from me this Christmas, but I believe that if she knew what happened, she would have had outcome no other way.

I feel blessed to have helped Richard Kelly's last days be more cheerful. This just further reinforces my belief that there are never any mistakes in life -- just detours, shortcuts, and small excursions along the way.

by: A. Brian Fielder, , Heartwarmers4u