This is a story that may bring a tear to your eye, it’s a lovely tale about the love of two people. It’s called
Sean's Special Gift.
Can you remember the most meaningful present you’ve ever given to someone? It doesn’t have to cost the earth or be something flashy. It’s the joy of giving a gift to someone that really shows the thought that you’ve put into it and that’s what makes them so important. Here is a story about one such gift; I hope it reminds you of that special moment and how it may relate to your own Christmas story.
Sean steadied himself against the cold night wind, holding tight to his silver topped walking stick he stared at all the beautiful things in the shop windows on Bridge Street,
“What do I get for her” he said to himself. He only needed one present but it had to be perfect and time was running out.
Snowflakes began to fall and people walked by some loaded up with bags some still looking for that last minute gift. People carrying Xmas shopping and the air seemed filled with the sound of people calling out to those that they recognised
“How are ye” and “Happy Xmas”
Children with eyes wide looked in the shop windows and pulled at their parents hands “Look Mammy, Daddy” they shouted as they tugged at their sleeves dragging them away from boring stuff like dresses and jewellery and towards the more exciting windows with toys and sweets.
Sean turned around very carefully for now the street was slippy with snow and leaning on his walking stick he wandered down towards the end of Bridge Street. What wonderful things he saw, beautiful shiny objects, and the smells, Ohhh the smell was lovely, mince pies and mulled wine, turkey and ham. The air seemed alive. He pulled his scarf a little tighter and put his head down but even though he wore a wide brimmed hat the cold wind still stung his eyes and froze his cheeks. It even brought tears to his eyes, or was that the wind or something else?
Window after window Sean passed and each was filled with different things that at various times throughout his long life he had bought. A diamond ring, a wedding ring, elegant clothes, baby things, toys oh yes loads of toys especially those toys that you had to put together or those that you forgot to get batteries for. Sean smiled as he remembered how she’d laughed and swore at him for being a complete eejit, fancy forgetting the batteries. She laughed as he tried to put the toys together and she’d bring him a cup of tea. They’d sit and talk about Christmases past and they’d nibble at the mince pie and drink the milk that the children had left for Santa and Rudolf. Then when all the work was finished they would sit in front of the fire and say a prayer to the child who had changed the world all those centuries ago, they’d pray for peace, they’d kiss and hold each other close. Yes they were the times he remembered best about this time of year, the times when they knew love best and their years were so very full.
Sean smiled and whispered to himself so that those who stood near him didn’t hear “Wonderful, wonderful times, but my present, I must find my present”
He turned and began to walk back down the other side of Bridge Street. Past Port West, Past Gavin’s, past the cafes and the smell of freshly baked cakes and pubs filled with the sound of laughter. He came to a stop at a toy shop window and looked in. He saw sail boats and dolls, games and teddy bears. He saw them all and lost himself in the ghost of Christmas past as he remembered the faraway sound of children’s laughter. Then he felt a shiver down his spine, despite his warm coat, his hat, gloves and scarf. Sean was growing colder, he was growing tired and yet still he saw nothing, nothing that stood out and said to him “Here I am, your perfect gift”
Then as if by magic he saw it, there it was tucked away in a corner of the window high up on a shelf only just visible behind the more expensive toys. Yes there it was, the perfect gift, the most perfect gift of all. Sean entered the shop bought the gift and asked the nice girl behind the counter if she would wrap it in some lovely Christmas wrapping paper. Then he went outside and seeing a taxi he hopped in.
“Where to” the taxi driver asked,
“Castlebar hospital please” Sean replied.
Arriving at the hospital Sean paid the driver, giving him a nice tip and they wished each other a very Happy Christmas. Sean went through the revolving doors and went to the elevator, pressing the button he went up to the women’s ward, to Mary’s room. He opened the door and went in, took of his hat,coat, gloves and scarf and he pulled the chair close to Mary. He took her hand and held it, gently stroking it.
“Hello Mary” he said, not expecting an answer and of course none came.
Sean stared at her beauty, the rest of the world saw an old woman of 80, wrinkles, frail, white hair and swollen, gnarled, arthritic joints but not Sean. With his eyes he saw those things but not with his heart. With his heart he saw a woman who had devoted her life to him, a young woman standing on a step ladder as they decorated the baby’s room, she was giggling and had paint in her hair. He saw a woman playing with the children and comforting them when they felt ill, a woman with skin that was smooth and fresh and eyes that twinkled in the light.
He heard the soft sound of her voice as she sang their children to sleep and he heard her laughter as they played in the garden kicking autumn leaves and throwing snowballs in winter. His heart smelled her scent mixed with the salt air as they walked along Bertra Beach, they’d seen the world with lover’s eyes and he felt the comfort of waking up next to her every day.
Yes this was Mary, the Mary that Sean saw. Not the Mary connected to life by wires and tubes.
“It’s Christmas Eve Mary” Sean said softly, “I’ve brought you a present, would you like to open it or save it for tomorrow?”
Knowing that Mary couldn’t answer Sean reached for the gift and placed it on the bed beside her. “I tell you what, why don’t we open it now. See the beautiful ribbon that the girl in the shop put on it. And didn’t she choose beautiful paper to wrap it in. It’s red and has little Santa’s on it, I picked it especially for you cause I know you like it. She did a marvellous job of wrapping it up”
With aged, trembling fingers Sean unwrapped the gift and while doing so he journeyed back in time.
“The Cow’s gone dry Mary” he shouted as he walked through the door,
“What are you going to do” answered Mary.
“We’ll have to shoot her and make beef burgers for the dinner” Laughed Sean,
“I’ll put the kettle on” replied Mary.
This was their greeting every night when Sean came in from work. How it began, they couldn’t remember. Just a bit of fun, just being young and foolish. It was funny really because they didn’t live on a farm and Sean had no idea how to milk a cow, he worked in an office. All they knew was it was a bit of fun, it was their special way, no one elses. It was their special way of saying “I Love you and it’s good to be home”
Sean pulled the last of the wrapping paper from the box in which the present sat. “Here it is Mary, give me your hand” Sean drew her hand towards him so that Mary could hold the gift. Then he placed it in her palm. It was a small, fluffy toy. A black and white cow that mooed when sqeezed. The cow lay in Mary’s limp hand, Sean reached over and squeezed the cow, “Mooo, Moooo”
In the silence of the room Sean heard a quiet, soft, muffled sound. Looking from the toy to her face he saw Mary’s eyes, open and distant. Her lips moved slightly. Sean rose from his chair in disbelief. It had been months since Mary had stirred. Gently, afraid of breaking the spell Sean leaned towards Mary. He bent down and put his ear near to her mouth and said “What my dear, what did you say”
Quietly Mary whispered “What are you going to do”
Sean had never felt such a surge of joy. Those few words from Mary’s lips. What a gift, what a gift, never had there been such a wonderful gift. Tears welled up in his eyes and fell on Mary’s cheek. Our words, our special words he thought, then choking back the tears he said,
“We’ll have to shoot her and make beef burgers for the dinner”
All that night, all that holy Christmas night, Sean waited for Mary’s response but Mary lay silent. She held her cow and she gently passed into the great beyond.