by | Jun 3, 1999 | Death, Grief

As Christmas time nears, we who have lost a child only have our memories to carry us through. My mind has been reeling with memories of years past. But there was one, that I will always remember…….

It was a cold snowy December that year in 1976. Frigid temperatures had me piling more and more wood into our wood burner in the living room. Andy wanted to go outside and build a snowman. I told him no, it was too cold. He then wanted to go over to “John’s” trailer and visit. I said no.

John lived on the adjoining property. An elderly man who never had any children of his own, he took a shining to my son. Every time Andy was outside playing, I could hear his giggles over at John’s house as they planted a garden outside in summer, or Andy “helped” John work on some project he was doing. John didn’t have much. His trailer was old and ragged looking. Andy didn’t see the “old” trailer. He only saw a man who loved kids and a man who could bring a smile on a child’s face daily. Andy didn’t notice the tattered clothes John wore. But I did. Andy didn’t notice the hands that were calloused from years of hard work, only I did. And yet, I still didn’t want Andy to go over to John’s house. Maybe I was afraid he’d pick up germs. Maybe I was afraid John’s shabbiness would rub off onto Andy. How wrong I was. How blind I as an adult was that cold snowy winter.

It was Christmas Eve Day when the knock came at the door. I was baking cookies so Andy went to the door. I heard his squeal of “JOHN” as he opened the door. John had never been to my house before and I wondered why he was there standing with his hat in his hand, head bowed in a blinding snow storm. I went to the door as the old gray eyes looked up at me and his voice said, “I’ve made something for Andy for Christmas.” Behind him, in the snow, sat the most beautiful wood crafted toy box on wheels that I’d ever seen. Andy jumped out the door and hugged John’s neck. I helped John bring the toy chest into the house. I noticed how smooth the corners were sanded. I noticed how much work was put into making the box being a wood crafter myself. I knew John had spent hours making the toy chest.

The three of us sat down as I offered John a piece of cake and a glass of milk. I saw the old gray eyes lovingly look at Andy, and I saw the love and admiration in Andy’s eyes as he looked up at John. It was Andy, after John left to go back home, that went into his room and dug out a piece of wood he’d painted and told me he wanted to give it to John for Christmas. I watched as my little boy trucked through the snow to John’s trailer to share the true meaning of Christmas with his friend.

It was a month later on January 22 when another knock came at the door. Andy opened the door to see John standing there holding a cake he’d made with crooked letters on it saying, “Happy Birthday Andy and Andy’s mom.” I offered to have him come in and we’d share the cake, but he declined. He handed Andy a paper sack and hugged him before he left. I will always remember Andy reaching in the bag and pulling out the finest crafted little car I’d ever seen.

It was two months before Christmas in 1977 as I sat in a funeral home, my heart broken, as my little boy laid in the casket. Oblivious to whom was near me, only knowing I could not go on without my son, I didn’t look up when I felt hands rest on my shoulder. And yet they stayed there. I remember turning my head to see John standing there, those gray eyes filled with tears as he looked at me. John lost his little friend that day. I had once been blinded by the love between a little boy and an old man. And yet, that little boy taught me to look beyond tattered clothes and old shabby trailers. He taught me to see real beauty, in an old man’s eyes. For on that day, I saw love, genuine love from the heart from an old man who loved my son. John joined Andy in heaven the following winter.

God Bless you John. Take care of my little boy for me until I get there.


Andy’s mom

Sharon Bryant