A Christmas to Remember
by William Sirls
Winifred Tucker sat quietly as she stared out the window of Carter’s Diner. She wasn’t quite sure why she was there, but watching all the people in the busy parking lot took her mind off the pain in her lower back and neck.
“GG Winnie, you didn’t eat all your ham,” said the little girl beside her.
Winifred turned to stare at her. The little girl wore a beautiful pink dress trimmed with a wide, white ribbon. Winifred sneaked a quick peek across the table. She still didn’t recognize the woman sitting there, but the stranger had come with the little girl to pick Winifred up from The Woodlands Nursing Home.
“Granny, do you want some water?” the stranger across the table asked, holding up a Styrofoam cup with a straw poked through its plastic lid.
“It looks better out there,” Winifred said, tapping a crooked and age-spotted finger at the window. “It’s like new.”
“What’s like new, Granny?” the stranger asked, glancing out at the parking lot.
“All of it,” Winifred said, wondering why the stranger kept calling her Granny. “It’s just so beautiful outside today.”
“Maybe ’cause today is Christmas,” the little girl said, resting her head on Winifred’s arm. The little girl slipped from her chair and squeezed behind Winifred’s to peer out the glass beside her. “Do you think God makes Christmas days prettier than others?”
“I ’spect so,” Winifred said.
“I remember you telling me what Christmas was all about when I was little,” the girl added.
“You’re not all that old now.”
“GG Winnie, I’m ten!” the girl said, shooting her an indignant look.
Winifred smiled and glanced back out to the parking lot. “So, if you’re so old and wise, and I told you about Christmas, tell me what it’s all about.” She congratulated herself for her quick thinking. Because now, Winifred had no earthly idea what Christmas was. But it was just right there, right in the corner of her mind…
“Jesus came into the world,” the girl said, giving her a little frown.
“Oh,” Winifred said. “That’s right. And he also died and arose.”
Winifred meant to call the young girl by her name because the name came to her for an instant, then went away. So many things came and went, but what she did remember was the young man she was looking at. He was the same one she had spotted earlier. He hadn’t moved a lick. He was just standing out there amongst the parked cars. And goodness, look at all the cars. There were so many of them out there, and they all looked so different. There were small cars, big cars, a motorcycle, even a Cadillac—an old Cadillac, like the one her Isaac used to drive. There were new pick-up trucks and old pick-up trucks—just so many of them. And look at all the people. They’re everywhere!
“My goodness, but this place is popular,” she mused.
“Because it’s Christmas,” the little girl said.
Winifred’s eyes moved back to the cars, more arriving by the moment. She looked over at the old Cadillac. “Isaac needs his medicine,” she said. She frowned and put her hand flat on the window. “He has a bad heart.”
“Not anymore,” the little girl said. “Great-Grandpa Isaac’s all better now.”
“He needs it every day, Mallory,” Winifred answered, looking at the girl. Yes, that’s it…her name is Mallory. “Isaac depends on me to remember his medicine.”
Mallory lowered her head back to Winifred’s arm and grinned. “You don’t have to do that anymore, GG. He’s with God now, remember?”
Winifred stared at her, panic seizing her heart. “No, I see his car. Please take me to him,” she pleaded. “I miss him so, and he needs his medicine.”
“But GG,” the girl said, her small hand resting on Winifred’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, Mal,” the stranger across the table said.
“I really wish someone would take me out there to see Isaac,” Winifred said, shaking her head and watching as a young couple helped their three children into a white minivan. Not too far from them, a young man…the same young man…was still just standing there. There wasn’t anything special about his appearance; in fact, he looked rather plain, but Winifred sensed something about him. Something special. I know him, she thought. I know him from somewhere…Think, Winifred. Think.
“What are you looking at, Granny?” the woman across the table asked.
“It’s him,” Winifred said in wonder, still staring at the man in the parking lot. Her eyes widened in surprise, and she smiled. The man returned her smile and nodded. He’s looking at me, Winifred thought. Why is he looking at me? She put her hand back up against the window and opened her mouth slightly before nodding back at him. She then turned to little Mallory.
“I’m going to see Isaac today!”
“GG Winnie,” little Mallory said sadly. “Great-Grandpa Isaac isn’t out there. He really isn’t.”
“I know that, silly!” Winifred said.
“Mallory,” the strange woman interrupted. “Let GG think what she wants, honey.”
Winifred lowered her hand from the window and smiled again. “Ladies, I know I’m going to see Isaac today!”
Mallory slipped back into the chair beside Winifred. “Mommy, look at GG smile!” She clapped and wrapped her arms around Winifred’s shoulders and hugged her. “I love you, GG Winnie! I haven’t seen you smile like this in so long! I’m so glad you’re happy!”
That night, back in her small room at The Woodlands, Winifred sat on the edge of her bed and gazed at the framed photograph on top of her nightstand. Her back was throbbing, but at least her neck pain had eased up.
She reached over and picked up the frame from the nightstand, and her hands trembled slightly as she held it up in front of her face. The picture was of her daughter, Connie; her granddaughter, Carolyn; and her great-granddaughter, Mallory.
“Yes!” Winifred said. “Carolyn was the other one that I had brunch with today. She was the one sitting across from me.” Winifred was glad she remembered.
Then there was someone else she recalled—the young man from the parking lot who’d been looking at her. There was a quick knock on the door and Winifred knew it was Nurse Hyacinth, who checked on her just about every night.
“Come in, honey,” Winifred said.
“Did you enjoy your Christmas, Winnie?” the nurse asked, peeking around the door. “How’s your back feeling tonight?”
“It was the best Christmas ever,” Winifred said, pulling a quilt toward her—one that Carolyn and Mallory had made for her. “And the Lord is going to make my back like new.”
“I pray for that all the time,” Hyacinth said. “If you need anything, you know what to do.”
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
The nurse nodded and closed the door. Winifred glanced over at the far corner of the room and could see the silhouette. She knew who it was. It was the man from the parking lot.
There was something else she remembered about him.
“He arose,” she whispered.
Winifred draped the quilt around her shoulders. She clicked off the lamp, cradled the photograph to her breast, and laid her head carefully down on the pillow. Connie, Carolyn, and Mallory—how she loved them! And she knew they loved her, too. It felt good to remember. To not struggle to remember, after so long…
“I’m ready,” she said, her neck and back already feeling better.
Little bubbles of excitement fluttered throughout Winifred’s belly. It was the happiest she had been in a long, long time. She smiled and closed her eyes, thinking about Isaac and how she truly missed him.
A little over two hours later, Winifred Tucker died in her sleep.
About the Writer
Over the course of his life, William Sirls has experienced both great highs and tremendous lows—some born of chance, some born of choice. Life lessons involving faith, grace, patience, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The movie adaptation of his novel, The Reason, was released by Universal Studios in 2020.
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Photo is in the Public Domain.