A Christmas Miracle

Story was inspired by The 104.7 The Fish Christmas Wish Program. Photo by: Unsplash.

Story was inspired by The 104.7 The Fish Christmas Wish Program. Photo by: Unsplash.

On July 14, 10-year-old, Emily Marksdale was diagnosed with Leukemia. Emily’s life began to change very quickly. One moment, she enjoyed all things 10-year-old girls enjoy. She attended birthday parties, sleepovers, went to church, she danced ballet and competed with the Sparks, her local gymnastics team, she loved reading and had a major obsession with the Rainbow Magic Fairies Series. In an instant, her life became nothing but doctor’s appointments, blood work, and CT scans.  

Emily’s mother, Rachel, was a single parent trying her absolute hardest to raise Emily and her five year old sister, Lindsey. It seemed like it was just yesterday that Rachel and her husband, Michael, had their whole lives planned out in front of them. The couple lived in a quiet suburb just north of Atlanta and lived a life most people could only dream of. Michael was an accountant for large corporation, leaving Rachel to stay busy taking care of their children, helping with Emily’s homework, driving the girls to their weekly activities, and planning nightly dinners. It was September 16, 2017 when Rachel received the heartbreaking the call. Trembling, she hung up her phone and left the girls with their neighbor, whom the girls called Miss Morris, and rushed to the hospital to be right at her husband’s side. There was nothing the doctors could do. The 21-year-old drunk driver lay asleep two rooms to the right of them. The man had been drinking and had sped straight through a red light slamming his 2017 Chevy Camaro hard into the driver’s side of Michael’s black 2016 Honda Accord Sport. The driver’s head was lacerated, but he was going to be okay. For Rachel, those few hours in the cold, dark hospital room were the last time she would ever see her husband. 

Two weeks after the crash, which seemed to pass very slowly as the family tried to adjust to their new lives, Rachel began substitute teaching at the girl’s elementary school. Money was tight, but she wished for only the best for her girls. Rachel sold what she could, only bought the girls used clothes at thrift stores, but she never had enough. Life became difficult for Rachel, she had lost her best friend that night, but wanted life to go on for her girls just the way it always had. Until the summer of 2018. 

In the spring of 2018, Emily began to complain of pain in her bones and joints. Although she had a multitude of bruises on her body, Rachel assumed they were only from gymnastics.  The pain continued for months, Emily wasn’t eating like her food-loving self and she began to lose weight. Rachel took Emily to her pediatrician, who then referred her to a pediatric oncologist. The oncologist confirmed that Emily, in fact, had leukemia. Rachel spent the next few nights alone and in her room. On her knees, Rachel prayed to God every day, asking for a miracle, she couldn’t lose her baby. Not now, so soon after her husband’s passing, and why her?  When school started back in August, Emily felt tired and in pain every waking minute. The chemo treatments had taken a toll on her body, changing her into a person unlike the young girl she had been only months before. Her gymnastics team and ballet classes were all gone, her friends rarely invited her to parties, and she hated the way she looked and wished she still had her long, wavy, brown hair. Rachel could only work one or two days a week because of Emily’s countless doctors appointments. Time was quickly ticking away. Rachel’s car had recently broke down and because of her lack of money and time, she had to borrow a car from one of her friends. 

The holidays were rapidly approaching and neither of the girls were in the cheery holiday spirit that time of year usually brings. Emily, as well as Lindsey, refused to participate in their school’s annual Thanksgiving musical, and neither girl had any desire to attend their church’s Breakfast with Santa, write letters to Santa, or even decorate their house. Rachel did all she could to make a normal holiday season… but she had nothing to give. She prayed every night that God would ease Emily’s pain. She prayed that God would give them strength to go on another day and to help her find a way to make it through the holiday season. The holidays had always been such a joyful time in their house: the lights, which their dad usually had wrapped around their front porch and front yard trees. The smell of food, like pie and turkey, and the smell of cookie dough as the girls helped their mom bake Christmas cookies in the shape of trees, bells angels, and more. The anticipation of Santa, as the girls wrote their letters and counted down the days until Christmas eve. This year was different however. The house felt lonely and dark and Rachel needed an answered prayer, a miracle. 

It was 2:14 p.m. on December 23. Two days until Christmas. Rachel and the girls sat patiently in the cold, quiet non-decorated exam room at the oncologist’s office. It was a day Rachel and the girls had not been looking forward to. Today was  the day to find out how much of the cancer had been cured. The door opened and Dr. Riley came in with a broad smile. The cold, lonely room began to warm and brighten as he shared the wonderful news: Emily’s chemotherapy treatments had been working. Her abnormal white blood cell count was lower than ever. Screams of joy could be heard all the way down the hall as Rachel praised the Lord. God had answered her prayers… but was it enough to save Christmas?     

That night, Rachel decided to pull an old Christmas tree from the basement and the girls decorated it with twinkly lights and the girls handmade ornaments Rachel had saved through the years. Rachel watched as Emily grabbed a little white box and opened it carefully. Inside lay two cardboard reindeer with crooked ears and one missing an eye. On the back, in barely legible, hot pink handwriting were the words “mommy” and “daddy.” As tears streamed down Rachel’s face, she rose from the couch to leave the room and was startled by the ringing doorbell. Lindsey stood quickly and whispered “Mommy… is it Santa?” With tears in her eyes and bright red cheeks, Rachel nervously and quietly walked to the door with both girls at her side. When she opened the door, she saw, standing in front of them, twenty or thirty kids each from Emily and Lindsey’s classes. They were dressed in festive, red and green clothing and had Santa hats on top of each of their heads. Each child held a beautifully wrapped present with a bright bow and colorful wrapping paper. Behind them stood their parents, some who had been Rachel’s friends through the years, holding more presents and what Rachel could smell to be a wonderful Christmas dinner including all of the families favorites and more. The children began to sing Christmas carols, like Deck the Halls and Silent Night, and Emily and Lindsey also began to sing along as the tears continued to pour from Rachel’s face. One by one the visitors laid their gifts under the families short, slanted, needle-less Christmas tree, which only had half of its bulbs lit. The house began to warm and become cheery, with the smell of turkey and ham laid out on the table. After all the gifts were laid under the tree and the table set for three, each of the angels began to leave, still singing sweet carols. Another prayer had been answered, Christmas had been saved and the Marksdale Family had much to be grateful for that holiday season.