- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: General Interest
- Subject: Fantasy / Dreams / Wishes
- Published: 12/21/2016
911 Christmas.Born 1951, M, from Wilmington NC, United States
“Chief. You have to come see this. Now.”
“What is it Danny? Do you need more units? I understood it wasn’t a house fire, but a Paramedic call?”
“No Chief. We don’t need additional units, we …we…we…well, come see!”
“Roger. On my way.”
Chief O’Malley had been with the Fire Department for more than forty years, each year he keeps telling his wife that this is the year he will retire. But they both know better. She always listened when he told her that THIS is the year he will retire, then she would smile, pat his cheek with her still young looking hand, kiss him softly on the lips:
“Whatever you decide will be fine.”
He would hug her tight. She knew that he considered her, and his career in the Fire Department as the two best things in the whole world. She was loved and knew it. She learned long ago that the Fire Department was not his Mistress, but his way of giving back love. He never knew that the Fire Department and her had become Sisters in Love a long time ago. Both offering comfort, safety, and stability to his life.
Chief O’Malley got in his Chief’s Squad Car, his mind distracted by both the fact that it was Christmas Eve, almost midnight - a very slow night (which always made the Chief glad- no calls- no tragedies- Great!). Yet Danny’s terse command nagged at him. Worrying his subconscious the way a big dog works a steak bone, gnawing at what might be in there. Danny was one of the coolest, calmest, solid men he had ever had the pleasure of Commanding. For him to say, even hint, that whatever was going on was beyond his description or ability to handle- well, it made the Chief drive carefully to the scene of the call. Ready for the unexpected, as forty years of Fire Service had taught him to be.
He pulled up to an ordinary house, well kept, a Manger Scene in the front yard- without a baby in the crib. The snow was only about six inches deep, the way it was falling from the sky, his experience told him there would be a foot or more by tomorrow morning. The red, blue, and white lights, lit up the scene and gave it a Merry Christmas Hollywood Movie touch. But those weren’t Christmas lights reflected in the Snow. No. Not at all.
The red , blue, and white lights came from: a Patrol Car, the EMT Squad, and the two Fire Trucks. The 911 Call said:
“My name is Mrs. Delancey, I think I am having a heart attack, and my kitchen is on fire. Please, Help. I live on Rockside Road, second house on the right, when you turn off of Oak.”
That was all. The 911 Operator said she heard a gasp of pain, and then a clunk that sounded like a body and a phone had both hit the floor at the same time. As she was trained to do, the 911 Operator had stayed on the line…she still was on the line. She kept it open on an unused channel, because she couldn’t believe the chatter she was hearing from the Police and Paramedics and Fire Department. Mrs. Delancey was dead, but something was going on.
“Danny, what is going on?”
The Chief looked at Danny without any judgment, or malice, or demand. He simply wanted to know the situation, and with held reaction keeping it under tight control, until, as he taught his men: “You know you need to react.” Danny took off his helmet and pointed to the living room floor. Mrs Delancey’s body was covered with a sheet. Scattered around her were the medical detritus of standard procedure protocols- the IV drips, the rubber gloves, the discarded gauze, and the defibrillator , still open, but powered down. Her phone still tangled in the long cord leading to the wall.
Danny pointed to the table.
Chief O’Malley walked over and looked at a large piece of paper laying there. Around the table stood almost a dozen men and women, all silent, still, somber. He knew them all, and nodded at them before picking up the paper. His first thought was that the handwriting was beautiful, like his Mother’s and his Aunts, heck, even his Dad and Grandfather. Before the Second World War, handwriting was taught , and taught well. This note was written in a gentle flowing hand, the kind of writing that makes a Christmas Card sparkle, and a letter a treasure.
He Started to read, stopped, started again, stopped. Then he had to sit down. Danny knew his Chief, and had a chair handy to slide under him as his body slumped from the overwhelm of reading that note. Just like Officer Martin had done for Danny when he read the note. No one could read that note without their legs giving way, or their knees trembling, or…a prayer slipping unprovoked from their lips. When you hold a miracle in your hand, it is no slight thing.
The Chief had long ago forgotten the men around him. He was absorbed in the letter. Each carefully formed word reaching out to touch his soul, his heart, and alter his reality. The same emotions that Danny had felt, that ALL the men and women had felt. It was something none of them had ever come across, none of them knew what to do…so they called the Chief. These were men and women who had seen miracles, horror, saved lives, and stood in agony…helpless... a minute to late. Their emotional range was much larger than average people’s . They regularly saw things that ordinary people hopefully would never witness once in their lives, and still they did their job. They had seen hope rewarded, and hope wither and die. They had seen joy in all its manifestations, and grief in all of its ugly wardrobes. Life and Death, as they well knew, were a circle with a thin line deciding which it was to be…life, or death. Yet even with all that experience, not one of them could figure this night out.
The Chief decided he had to read the letter out loud. Silent letters these words were never meant to be. So he began again, as if his body was merely a translation machine bereft of any personal tone or pitch. He read the letter out loud, with the same gentle tone and pitch that the handwriting had placed on the paper:
“Dear Chief O’Malley, and the rest of you wonderful boys and girls from the Fire Department, Police and the ParaMedics (Hello Susan, I left a gift for your Macy, it is a riding scholarship down at the barn. I know how she loves that horse: Duby's Star, so I paid for her to learn to ride it. Merry Christmas!)”
The Chief looked up briefly to see Susan, the Lead Paramedic holding an envelope in her hand, the tears almost covering the smile as they leaked unnoticed from shiny eyes) He nodded. Then went back to reading:
If you are reading this, I died just about when I thought I would. I haven’t been feeling well lately, and was afraid I wouldn’t get this all arranged by Christmas. It looks like I did. I had a wonderful 89 years on this planet. About May, I started to think I wouldn’t live to see Christmas. My children are all dead, my husband has been gone for almost 20 years, and the grandchildren are old and live far away. Dying didn’t scare me at all. It still doesn’t. (Please tell me I died with a smile on my face!)
The Chief looked up, and Susan bent over at the telepathic command, lifting just a bit of the cover off of Mrs. Delancey - you could plainly see the soft angelic smile still present on her face. She did die with a smile, a loving, caring, mischievous smile. One that would linger in their memory forever. Susan placed the cover back with respect, elegance, and kindness…and a touch of awe.
On my birthday back in October, I got this weird thought: How can I make a my death beautiful? How can I make it mean something? How can I give my last Christmas, the send off it deserves? I came up with this plan. I have to say, planning, preparing, and purchasing all the things I would need to make this Christmas Special was one of the most delightful times of my life. I was like a little girl again. Filled with the expectation of making Christmas come true. I was Santa, the babe in the Manger, and the Season, all wrapped up in a human shroud. At least, that is how I felt these last few months. I found myself humming old tunes, praying, and singing the hymns that brought the most Christmas like glitter to my soul.
Starting on December 1st, I tracked all the fires your wonderful team of Heroes responded to. Up until December 23d. Six families lost their homes in that time. One family lost their child…(there were tear stains on the paper on this line- and the Chief had to hold the paper up a bit higher to make sure his didn’t join them) . I can’t do anything to bring him back. One other family lost their Golden Retriever, Sally. And I could do something about that.
So here is what you can do for me, as your present to me:
On the left side of the Formal Dining Room, all wrapped in Blue wrapping paper of different styles, and designs, are the presents for every male member of all six of those families. I spent a great deal of time to make sure they each got something they needed, wanted, or both. On the right side, that whole stack of gifts wrapped in Pink Paper of all kinds , those, well those are for the female members of all six families. I took great care choosing them too. The Golden Retriever in her crate is called: Molly. (You know which family gets her) None of those families will remember me, but I met them all at different times, shook their hands and offered my condolences (with many a brief hug too). I listened as they told me how they wondered if they would be strong enough to start over with nothing but some smoldering ruins in front of them. I was able to listen in on their worst fears. All of them had nothing left, except the clothes on their backs, the love in their hearts, and family.
I am so proud of how resilient these six families are, how hope is still there in their hearts, fire took away their homes, but hope burns brightly in their chest. (again, tears stained parts of the letter here…and the Chief, once again- had to move the paper away from his own free flowing enemies of ink)
Besides the gifts, which brought me so much joy in finding not the right one, but the perfect one for each survivor, you will find a box on the table. It used to hold my Husband’s ashes, but I put them in his boat, and took him fishing one last time. I brought the box back and didn’t know what to do with it. Until now. It used to hold the ashes of my greatest love, what better use than to hold hope rising out of the ashes now?
If you open it, you will find inside six envelopes. In each envelope is a Cashiers Check for $186,000 . All the taxes have been paid, and if any accountant, or lawyer, or the IRS try to claim any of that money is due them , or probate, or whatever, I have enclosed my lawyers name and number. Just have them give him a call, and he will (for no fee) handle the situation from there. This money is a gift, and the taxes have been paid both in dollars, and suffering. It isn’t a lot, but if they are frugal, it should buy them each a home.
Now the last gift I have to give, and it is truly a gift to myself. Is why I called you and your boys and girls to my house tonight. Would you be my Santas? Could you , Danny, Susan, Martin, and the rest take these envelopes and gifts to each of those six families? I know it isn’t your job, and maybe you might even get in trouble for it. But, I think it would mean the world to the families to see these things brought to them by you all. It would mean the world to me.
Oh, under the box, you will find two more envelopes. One if for you and Mrs. O’Malley. It is a 30 day cruise in April. You and Mrs. O’Malley are crossing the Atlantic, and going to the Azores, and 19 European Capitols, then in May, on Mother’s Day, you are flying home First Class. Merry Christmas. The other envelope is for Danny, who by the time you go on your Cruise, will be the new Chief. This year, you will keep your promise to Mrs. O’Malley. LOL
In Danny’s envelope is a hotel reservation in Boston for four days, three home games by the Red Sox will be played in those four days. I got box seats right behind home plate for Danny and Sheila. They met at a Boston Red Sox Game, and haven’t had the time to go to another one since. They won’t even have to commute, the Hotel has a shuttle to the Green Monster and climes.
Just one last thing, call Mr. Levy at the Mortuary, and tell him to turn the urn over to you when he is done with his craft. I wold like my ashes to surround the flag pole at the fire station and feed the poppies.
Merry Christmas. I loved my life. Please live yours.
Sincerely, Mrs. Robert Lindsay Delancey. (And a kiss with red lipstick was planted over the signature)
The Chief, after a while, looked up. 12 heads swiveled to look back at him. All ready to do whatever commands might be given. Not knowing what they might be, but hoping.
“Danny and all the teams here. You heard the Lady. Load up. WE have a job to do. Danny and I will take the Sorrensons’ and Smiths gifts and envelopes. Susan, you get your paramedics to deliver the Wiley’s and Hardcourt’s. Officer Martin, you take DeMarco’s. Then meet back here, and we will all take the Allen’s, the family that lost their little boy, well, we will all take their gifts and envelopes to them. I want full electronics on when you get to where they are staying, but drive slow, I want our lights to mean Christmas, not crisis.
"Well, what are you waiting for? It is already Christmas! Go!”
And they did.