Today is Christmas
by Dave Wiley
It was the middle of March and signs of Spring were beginning to manifest themselves in the city of Maastricht. The tulip bulbs were sending out little green signals that in a matter of days, the unveiling of a new year of flora would begin. Even though it was still cold, I’d elected to sit outside and enjoy the bustling Sunday crowds as they navigated through the smallest of the three town squares. The outdoor heaters were radiating warmth down onto the small group of tables set up under the awning in front of the restaurant where I’d sat, but I was still wearing my coat. I’d already ordered my dinner selection and had settled back into the novel I was reading, when I got the feeling someone was looking at me. Since I couldn’t shake it, I looked up to see if indeed the intuition was correct.
At next table over sat an elderly man, his wife, and what I would surmise correctly was their daughter. The parents looked to be in their late sixties, and the daughter, a spitting image of her mother, appeared to be in her mid-thirties. The daughter was staring intently at my jacket. I’d assumed I must have spilled something on my coat, but when I looked down, I realized what the woman was looking at. I was wearing a jacket with the emblem of a smiling Samoyed face and the name of the Samoyed club I belonged to. The woman’s face reflected a deep sadness. Visibly upset, she said something hurriedly in Dutch, and left the table. The older woman quickly followed.
The man looked over awkwardly, and said something to me in Dutch. I did not know what he said, so I admitted somewhat apologetically that I only spoke English. He explained in English that his daughter had become upset by the depiction of the Samoyed. Not thinking, I asked if they had recently lost their pet. His answer, thankfully was no, but he proceeded to tell me one of the most saddening, yet heartwarming stories I’d ever heard about a Samoyed. I repeat it to you as best as memory serves me.
Approximately ten years prior, his daughter’s son was diagnosed with cancer. At the time he was diagnosed, he was given less than six months to live. He was four years old. The doctor told the family they would need to start Chemotherapy as soon as possible. Not long after, the son needed to reside full time in the hospital. His immune system had grown so weak that the fear was any infection would probably be fatal.
The trip to the hospital turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not long after they’d checked him in, the son made a new friend. Someone had offered a therapy dog visit. The daughter, knowing her son’s love of animals, agreed to allow them to visit the small boy. The therapy dog was a Samoyed.
The elderly gentleman now stopped talking. My food had arrived. He excused himself to go check on his family. Sadly, I knew his tale did not have a happy ending because of the woman’s reaction to my coat, but I couldn’t help but want to hear the rest of the story. The man returned shortly and sat down. He informed me his wife and daughter would probably be a little longer but everything was ok. I slowly chewed my dinner, wondering if he’d pick up his tale where he’d left off. He looked off in the distance for a bit, and I figured he must have completed his story. I finished my dinner and called for the check. It was then the man began to speak again.
“My grandson really enjoyed the visits from the Samoyed”, said the man. I replied that I had two Samoyeds and I thought they were one of the friendliest breeds, but a lot of people didn’t care for all that white fur. The man welled up in tears. He stated that the fur was one of the best things about a Samoyed, and he needed to finish telling me about his grandson.
The Samoyed and his owner visited the boy once a week, and they became quite close with the family. Often they would stay and chat. During that time, the Samoyed laid next to the boy, letting him play with the fur as he talked with the therapy volunteer. One day, the boy admitted to the volunteer that he knew he was going to die. He was hoping he’d live until Christmas, because he was looking forward to seeing his first Christmas snow. Holland is known as a place that receives snow very rarely, and this young man had never seen real snow. He figured his best chance was on Christmas. His family knew he’d wanted to see snow from a young age. They’d just never imagined he would never get that chance. It was only February and the previous Christmas they had not even known he was sick. At this point the doctor had told the family there was not much time left.
The next week the therapy dog person approached the family with two shopping bags and an idea and they decided they would try it. The following visit, while the little boy was sleeping, the therapy worker and the mom carefully laid out their plan, and then sat back and waited for the boy to wake. The little boy awoke roughly a half hour later. On the tray above him sat an assortment of neatly wrapped Christmas gifts. As he rubbed his eyes and looked around, he got an even bigger surprise. “IT SNOWED!!!” said the excited little boy. Indeed, it had snowed. The boy was completely surrounded in soft white Samoyed fur. “Today is Christmas!!” he declared. “Merry Christmas!!!”
The family brought in a dozen more presents, and the little boy joyously opened each and every one, still surrounded in Christmas snow. After he finished his gifts, he asked his mom if he could have a special Christmas favor. Could he please keep a small tuft of Samoyed hair with him? The mother asked why. The boy replied, “So every day from now on can be Christmas”.
Less than a month later, the little boy left his earthly existence. At the funeral, most of the attendees were perplexed when mother and her parents brought in a large bag of white fur and slowly spread it around her little boy. She kissed him and held his little hand tightly. “There”, she said. “Now every day will be Christmas.”
I sat dumb founded, amazed at the story the man had just told me. He wasn’t quite finished however. “Today is March 11th”. He stated. “Ten years ago today, my grandson passed away. Then you stopped here with a Samoyed on your jacket. I guess my grandson just wanted to remind us that today is not a day to be sad; rather, today is Christmas”.
I stood up slowly and walked over to this man who’d just poured out this very personal story to me. I reached into my pocket, and I took something out. I asked him for his hand, and as he held it out I placed a small ball of Samoyed fur in his palm. “Here” I said. “This is for your daughter. Samoyed fur holds special meaning for me as well. I carry it with me to remind me of home when I am away on trips. From now on it will also remind me that every day I wake up is special, that every day should be like Christmas.”
Samoyeds are a perfect symbol of how it can be Christmas everyday. They make us smile most waking moments. They always go that extra mile to ensure we have a wonderful day.
The Christmas season is usually a happy time for us all. It’s a celebration of life. Whether you are religious or not, it’s a time when people take an extra moment to say hi to someone they don’t know; a time when people take the change out of their pocket and contribute it to someone more needy; a time when people display generosity toward others. It’s a time of giving.
After the Christmas holiday ends and you get back to the daily grind it’s easy to forget to be extra kind. Hopefully, the next time you pick a doggy hair off your sweater, this story will serve as a reminder that everyday is a day to take that one extra step for your fellow beings. It’s a reminder that you can treat every day can be like its Christmas morning if you just take one extra moment to think about it.