One Last Wish

by | Jun 3, 1999 | Grief

Our Christmas Miracle started early that year-in January, to be exact. That was symbolic in many ways. The first of the year. A new beginning. A starting-over place. Expectations, hopes, dreams, and goals. A perfect time for miracles.

I’ve heard it said that there are no small miracles. And ours would not be small. We would learn important lessons of life that would change us I ways still hard for us to comprehend. We had struggled through so many losses the previous year. The loss of our family business, personal finances, our family home, and more important, our dreams. Yes that year left us humble and meager, but the struggle made us stronger and wiser.

We were excited to start a New Year. Never had we possessed so little and believed so much. Nineteen ninety-four. That was to be our year. A year of rebuilding, healing, and recovery. However, nothing we dreamed of or planned could have prepared us for the events that would soon take place.

It was cold and dark on that special night in January when my husband, Cal, first heard it. We had just started a new business and Cal was working alone in his back offices. He suddenly heard the voice of a small girl calling out, “Daddy…Daddy…Daddy.” Thinking that a little girl had gotten lost, he searched the outside reception area, and even the parking lot. Finding no one, he returned to his office to finish his work. Then he heard the girl’s voice again: “Daddy…Daddy…Daddy.” Because he was alone in the office, Cal tried to come up with a logical explanation. When he came home that night, he told me about his experience. He seemed bewildered, and yet neither of us could find any answers, and so with a family to care for, we turned out attention to other responsibilities.

It was only a few days later on a peaceful, quiet afternoon at home when she came. Cal was watching a sporting event on television downstairs; I was upstairs trying to catch up on a project. I suddenly heard the sound of Cal’s footsteps running up the stairs and I could hear the heaviness of his breath even before he found me. White as a sheet and shaking, he reached out for me. His words tumbled over each other in his haste to tell me what had happened. He had been sitting in his chair watching the game on TV when he heard again the voice of a small girl calling out. It was a clear voice, very close and soft. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.’ Cal quickly turned his head toward the voice and saw a small girl standing just a few feet away from his chair, looking directly into his eyes. He jumped out of the chair and turned again to find her gone. Then he ran up the stairs to find me.

Now this was something we couldn’t explain away or simply dismiss from our minds. What could it mean? Why had this happened? Was God trying to tell us something, and if so, what? Could this be our child? It didn’t make any sense. We had a total of eight children between us: four of them married, a daughter at college, and three boys at home. After having three boys in a row, could this be the daughter I had dreamed of and longed for? But why now, so late in our lives? I couldn’t fathom it and jokingly replied, “Honey, maybe she meant to say ‘Grandpa,’ but it was too big a word for such a little girl.” Yet as I prayed that night, I asked for answers: Was a daughter to come to our family? At our age? With eight other children? What of our finances, or lack of them? An d then, as I had become accustomed to doing, I concluded with a simple, “Thy will be done.”

It came as no surprise when, a few weeks later; I found I was carrying a baby. Knowing it was to be a girl, I rushed to the fabric store and came home with arms full of pink fabric. I sewed blankets, dresses, comforters, and crib sets, all in pink! I sewed my way through the summer and into fall. Cal was working hard to develop his clientele for his new business in addition to working as a sales manager for a dealership. By November, he was feeling exhausted and I was very overdue. But as if the year had not produced enough incredible experiences already, we were in for yet another surprise.

Cal had been saying he had a stomachache for a few weeks. Because he rarely complained, although he had experienced pain most of his life due to a birth defect, I was concerned. I thought perhaps he had an ulcer from all the stress of the past two years, and so he went in for some routine test. Shortly after he returned from having some X- rays taken, his doctor called us at home. “Mrs. Stewart,” she said, “I need to see you and your husband in my office in one hour.” I was immediately overcome with a feeling of despair.

The air in the doctor’s office was thick and heavy. I was very uncomfortable, being twenty-one days overdue, and Cal struggled quietly with his own pain. The doctor’s words came quickly and were straight to the point: “Mr. And Mrs. Stewart, I am sorry to tell you that Cal has cancer. It seems to have started in your esophagus, but it has spread to your liver, stomach, and lymph nodes. It is terminal. I hope you will live to see the birth of your child.”

For a minute I thought I was losing my mind. I could hardly believe I had heard the doctor say she hoped Cal would live to see the birth of his child. Couldn’t she see I was due to deliver at any moment? I felt my head spinning as I tried to listen to what she was saying and keep myself from crying. We stumbled from her office to the car. I don’t know how we got home. I do remember being at the foot of our bed that afternoon, holding hands as Cal offered up to God the desires of his hear, asking for a healing, a blessing. He cried. I had been with him for so many years, decades, almost, and could only remember him crying two times before.

Over the next few days we went from doctor to doctor and tried to make plans. Cal had decided he was not going to die from cancer. Other people had survived such a thing, so why not Cal?

Just three days after his diagnosis, on November 19, our daughter was born. Little Rebecca created quite a stir as she made her entrance into the world that night. What a wonderful event it was! The room was full of family, children, and friends. During the whole ordeal, I felt Cal at my side, his arm around my shoulder and his hand on my arm. My support, my strength, as he had always been. I didn’t notice then how sick he had become that day. And it wouldn’t be until Christmas that he would tell me about the other touching events of that evening. He said that he had felt find during the whole night, until the moment Rebecca was born. As he touched her little body as she lay on my chest and as he realized she was all right, he began to feel himself slipping away. He struggled for a chair and quietly fought the feeling of death that had overcome him at the very moment life had entered his newborn baby.

In the wee hours of the morning, Cal, on bended knees, pleaded for his life. Humbly and with faith, he begged for more time. Not for himself-he now knew it was his time to go-but for his children, his wife. How could he leave her on the night she had just given birth? Who would take care of her, or the other children? “Please, please,” he begged, “for my wife, my children, please give me more time. Please just give me Christmas.”

It was dawn before he struggled up from his knees and fell into bed. God would grant him his last wish.

And so on Christmas we celebrated. We celebrated life, family, and the blessings God had given us and especially His son, Jesus Christ. Family and friends came from across the country to be with us on Cal’s last Christmas. It was a joyous time as we felt the love to so many around us.

And then Christmas was over-the carolers were gone from our doorstep, family and friends returned to their homes, the tree and the lights were taken down, and Cal’s body ceased to struggle against the disease.

We slept with him in the hospital those last nights. Rebecca and I on a cot by his bed; another daughter, Rachel, in a chair. The cancer had spread to his brain, and he no longer could talk or see, or even stay awake. But for two days I watched in awe as another miracle unfolded. As each of his eight children came in to say good-bye to their father, their hero, their friend. Cal would wake up, sit up in his bed, and listen to each child, and then share his love and tender feelings with each one.

The last day we were alone together. I crawled up into the hospital bed with him and tried to express the feelings of my heart. I felt so helpless without him. He had always taken care of me, of all of us. I talked to him for hours, reminding him of all of the love and laughter we had shared, the dreams, the wonderful experiences of our life together. I thanked him for teaching me by his great example to love, to trust, to give. I thanked him for each of our beautiful children, for his strength, his patience, his forgiving heart. And I thanked him for waiting, for enduring his own pain to give us that last wonderful Christmas together.

And then I let him go. I assured him that the children and I would be all right. He could go now to his heavenly home.

The little girl who had come to visit her “Daddy” almost a year before would now be the angel that would hold our family together through our extraordinary grief. Day by day, little Rebecca brought such joy and love to our broken hearts that we were able to begin healing. Cal had not only lasted through Christmas; he had given our family the greatest of all gifts; a part of himself that would last a lifetime.

In loving memory of Calvin Eugene Stewart.

– –Cynthia Stewart-Copier Roseville, California Published in “Christmas Miracles”

© Cynthia Stewart-Copier

Cynthia Stewart- Copier is an international speaker and the author of several books and articles, which include the highly acclaimed new book: Dream Big! A Woman’s Book of Network Marketing, (Adams Media) and newly released, Creating Wealth on The Web, (Adams Media). She has written for top network publications and has been on numerous radio and television shows. Cynthia knows first-hand how to dream big and has dedicated her life to empower other’s to stand-up, step-out, and reach their dreams. She shares her inspiring secrets and unforgettable stories with organizations across the country. Reach Cynthia at www.DaretoDreamBig.com

* ** Rachel Stewart, and her mother, Cynthia Stewart-Copier are seeking true, inspirational stories from female athletes for their upcoming book, Dare It, Dream It, Do It! Please submit articles to ccbooks@rcsis.com

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