The upcoming Christmas holiday was supposed to be a time of joy all of those involved. Children adding last minute updates to the Christmas lists for Santa, parents finishing their shopping and some even baking cookies for their little ones to put out by the fireplace on Christmas Eve. The snow was still falling lightly on the ground covering the already white roads and sidewalks. Yes, the holiday season was still full of joy, for most.
Outside the Children’s Medical Research Hospital in the center of Manhattan, the grounds keeper was shoveling and salting the walkways for patients, family and employees that required safe entrance to the building. Within the building on the third floor, many children were held up inside on the lovely winter day, unable to go outside but watch the snow fall from the windows of their rooms or the children’s play center. One boy in particular, located in the private room of 308, was doing just that. Having had his bed moved closer to the window to see the snow outside, the red haired boy named Henry was busy daydreaming of what it would be like to go outside this winter.
“Hello, Henry. How are we feeling today?” Henry’s day shift nurse Ms. Charleston walked in with her clipboard and began checking the monitor’s for the boys vitals. She was a kind, young woman, just hired on a few months ago and already one of Henry’s favorite nurses. With a freckled smile, Henry looked over at her, holding out his arm for her to check his pulse and blood pressure as was the daily routine.
“A little tired. Do you think I will be able to go outside today and see the snow? Just out front, I promise!” He was so excited about the winter weather every year but with his failing immune system due to the chemotherapy, it wasn’t safe for his remaining health to go into the cold.
“I’ll talk to the doctor, Henry, but it might be to cold today. There are some children in the playroom if you would like me to escort you down there until lunch is ready to be served.” A kind smile and a few minutes later, Nurse Charleston put down the clipboard and moved closer to the bed, looking down at the coloring materials and drawings on the wooden bed tray. “These are great, Henry. Is this a new one?” She asked as she pointed to the Christmas picture.
Henry looked down sadly at the picture, his bright green eyes looking over the colors. “Yes. Its my mom and dad with me at home. We have a tree and gifts and everything.” He looked back out the window, sighing gently. “Four days until Christmas, but mom and daddy are still out of town.”
Henry was only eight years old and he had been diagnosed with a growing brain tumor two years ago. At first the progression was slow but now his folder read one horrible word; Terminal. The last diagnosis for his time left was a few months ago and it was told to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shire that Henry would be celebrating his last Christmas. They still kept their dampened hopes up however and Henry continued his chemotherapy to slow down the progression of the tumor.
“Oh I am sure they will be here Christmas Day. Your mom and dad are working very hard to pay for your treatments and you are being so brave for them. I’m sorry it takes them away from town so often.” She laid her hand on his shoulder and smiled gently.
“I know, me too.” He sighed gently, tearing his eyes away from the window and slipping himself out of his bed. “I think I will go to the playroom now, Nurse Charleston.” He put on a fake smile and with a gentle escort, moved with the nurse down the hall to the Christmas themed playroom. When the nurse left, she looked around. Only a few kids he had seen before were in the playroom and a few more he had not seen before in his last seven months in the hospital. Taking up his normal activity, Henry moved over to the table in the corner of the room and sat down, pulling over some clean paper and a few crayons. Across the table from him, although it seemed that Henry didn’t notice, was a little girl around the same age. When Henry sat down, she looked up from her own drawing and smiled.
“Hi.” she spoke brightly, waiting a reply as her hand continued to color the sky of her picture a Robin’s Egg blue.
Henry looked up and smiled shyly. “H-Hi” His own paper was still blank. He held a green crayon in his hand as he looked down at it. He wasn’t sure what to draw but he knew was going to have something to do with him not being in the hospital.
As if catching on to the idea that he didn’t know what to draw, the young girl smiled. “Why not draw your Christmas wish? Something you super badly want for Christmas. I love to draw things like that. I have pictures of pony’s and dolls filling up a folder at home!” She smiled brightly and scooted closer to him.
As if some burst of energy rushed through him, Henry smiled and looked up at her. “Oh I already did that. It is in my room here. I want to go home for Christmas with my mom and dad and spend it there like I did last year.”
“How come you don’t get to go home? Aren’t you just here for a little bit?” The little brunette haired girl watched with curious brown eyes and a tilted head as she pushed her finished picture of the beach aside.
“No, I have to stay here. I have cancer and they say that I probably won’t be going home for a while.” His mood dropped a little, his hand starting to draw a Christmas tree on his black piece of paper.
“Why? I have cancer and I get to go home after my treatments are done.” She laid her elbows on the wooden table, placing her chin on her hands as she watched him.
“It’s because they said I am terminal and that my treatments are not working like they used to.” said Henry
“What is terminal?” the young girl inquired.
“I think it means that,” he sighed gently, setting down his crayon. “well, that this is my last Christmas.” The mood dropped for a little while after that. No more words were spoken until Nurse Charleston came in.
“Alright children, back to your rooms for lunch. It should be up here in about five minutes so make sure to wash up!” She smiled brightly and moved over to the table where Henry had been sitting. “Come on Henry, I will walk you back.” She looked over at the young girl. “Hello little one, I don’t believe we have met. What’s your name?”
The young girl looked up at the picture she had been drawing of an angel and smiled ever so brightly. “Oh my name is Abbigail, miss. My parents are coming to get me soon.” Seeing the small frown on Henry’s face when she said she was leaving him, she leaned over to him. “But don’t worry, I will be back before Christmas.” Abbigail stood and smiled at them both once more before waving and skipping out. Now that she was standing, Henry could see she was about his height and she was wearing a white dress with stocking on her legs ad long sleeves.
“Well isn’t she a lovely little girl. Looks like you made a new friend, Henry. Come on, let’s get you some lunch.” The nurse moved to the doorway and waited for Henry.
Henry stood up from his spot slowly, feeling his muscles get a little weaker. Before he turned from the table he glanced over at the spot the young miss Abbigail was sitting at and saw her picture. It was a picture of an angel that looks like Henry. He smiled some, folded it up and placed it in the pocket of his sweat pants that he got to wear. He was escorted back to his room slowly and for the next couple days, things were quiet.
Over the next few days the nurses were in a tizzy. Henry’s vitals were dropping a bit faster then expected. Christmas Eve had arrived and he was now confined to his bed, unable to leave even if he could muster the strength to do so. An IV was inserted into his arm to keep fluids pumping through him to keep him hydrated and a call had been put in to his parents to return from their business trip early. They were supposed to arrive by the next morning.
Henry sat in his bed that evening, looking out the window to a twinkling star in the sky. “I wish I could go home for Christmas.” he spoke gently, his hands on the cover of the book in his lap. A Christmas story book that one of the nurses had given him early about an angel granting Christmas wishes. His eyes began to slowly close. That night he was scheduled for some few remaining tests that would determine how long he had left and how fast his cells were deteriorating. Then suddenly, his eyes snapped open with a small knock at his door.
Glancing over, Henry smiled brightly through tired eyes. “Abbigail, it’s you! I thought I wasn’t going to see you again!” He tried to sit up slowly.
“Of course you were silly. I told you I would be back.” She skipped over to the bed and climbed up on the side, sitting down at the foot of the bed and crossing her legs, wearing the same beautiful white dress. “I heard you are not doing so well so, I thought I would come and give you a gift.”
Henry smiled brightly, laying back down as she climbed on the bed. When she mentioned the gift, he looked around a little and coughed out a small laugh. “But you don’t have a gift.”
“Well, you see, if I left it here for you now then you would want to open it. But sense you shouldn’t open your gifts until Christmas Day, I promise it will be here by the time you wake up in the morning!” Brightly, Abbigail nodded and then climbed down from the bed.
“Wait, where are you going?” Henry asked urgently.
“Oh I have to go see my daddy now, I just stopped by to let you know when you would be getting your gift.” She moved over to the head of his bed and smiled at him, leaning in to give his cheek a kiss, she lingered longer to whisper in his ear. “It will be a gift you will never forget.” She leaned back and smiled at him. She remained there for a moment, watching him before she turned and skipped away.
Henry couldn’t say much because right after she left, the night nurses came in to take Henry down for his tests. “Alright, Henry, let’s go. It will only be a few minutes and then we can get you some sleep.” She nurse smiled, helping Henry into a wheelchair and escorting him below to the radiology and testing lab on the first floor.
The next morning, Henry woke up to a screech of surprise from a female voice he knew too well. “My baby!” an older woman called out.
Henry’s eyes shot open to see his mother running into the room with her arms open and tears in her eyes. Oddly enough Henry was feeling a lot better then he did the last few days and was able to sit up once his mother released him from her bear hug. “Momma, you’re here! Daddy too!” He looked over to the door, seeing his father walk in. He sat up quickly, bright eyed and jolly, until he saw his mothers tear-filled eyes. “Momma, what’s wrong?”.
“Oh baby.. I’m just so happy.” She choked out the words, turning to nuzzle her head into her husbands side as he came up to stand beside her.
“Henry, we get to take you home in a couple days.” his father said calmly.
“What do you mean?” Henry looked confused, looking over to the doorway where tearing nurses stood with smiles on their faces.
“Your cancer baby, it’s gone! Doctor Shield’s doesn’t know how but there isn’t a sign of it left!” She hugged him again and for the next hour, they talked about how things had changed and how the chemotherapy and radiation treatments must have just kicked in a high dose and worked.
It was only as his mom and dad were about to leave to fill out some paperwork and get their home ready for his return that Nurse Charleston came in with a small gift as thin as paper. “Henry, this was at the front desk for you.”
Henry saw the gift and quickly thought of Abbigail and when he would get to see her again and tell her the great news. “Who is that from, baby?” his mother asked curiously, knowing they had not yet brought in any presents from the car or from home.
Henry took it from the nurse who took a step back and slowly ripped the wrapping paper and box from the package. Inside was a folder and as he opened it he saw a picture of an angel hovering over a red-haired boy’s bed. The angel was a little girl– a little girl who looked just like Abbigail. Henry smiled and looked up to the nurse who returned a smile and nodded reassuringly. Henry then looked to his mother and then back down at the picture.
“It’s a drawing– from a very special friend.” Henry spoke proudly and curious looks of happiness washed over his parents faces. Three days later, Henry went home where he celebrated a belated Christmas with his mom and dad with the picture of the angel Abbigail framed and hung above the bed in his room. The angel Abbigail who came to him and granted his only Christmas wish.