By Daniel St. Andrews, Special to the Peace Arch News
It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and once again it didn’t feel like Christmas.
I was having a coffee and looking at one of those family portraits, and I got homesick – I missed my mom and dad and family, and those magical Christmases we shared together in Ontario. I missed not having that special feeling that I used to get every year.
A couple of years ago, I bought a ton of outdoor Christmas lights and decorated all of the hedges, evergreens and fence. I had just finished my cancer treatments and didn’t know how many more Christmases I would be around for – desperately hoping the lights would bring back that special Christmas feeling.
So last year I bought a Santa Claus outfit for a visit to BC Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley Centre – where I was treated and where I have been volunteering every week for the past 16 months – at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
As I made my way through the various clinics, patients’ eyes would light up with excitement. I was hearing voices from all sides – things like: “Hi Santa!” and “Merry Christmas, Santa” and “Hey Santa, can we get a picture of you with us?”
Within five minutes that special feeling returned, and I was a kid again.
I didn’t rush home and decorate the house with lights, though. In fact, within hours of leaving the centre I lost the feeling, which made me really sad.
So, on the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to get dressed as Santa Claus again, and return to the cancer centre.
As soon as I walked into the lobby, a woman ran up to me, pleading, “Oh Santa, could I get a picture with you and my mom?” I said, “Sure – ho, ho ho!”
The mother slowly walked up to me. She was in her patient gown and was wearing a Christmas hat. I gave her a hug and posed for the picture, when her daughter suddenly said, “Mom, why are you crying?”
I squeezed her closer and she stared up at me, with tears rolling down her cheek: “Because I never thought I would ever meet Santa Claus!”
I kissed her on the cheek and whispered, “I will always be with you.”
I toured the cancer centre and then walked down the hall to the hospital and took the elevator up to 51 North – the oncology floor. I had been a patient there several times during my cancer treatments, when I was at my lowest point.
I walked into each patient’s room and wished them all a happy holiday.
On my way back to the elevator, I noticed a ‘Palliative Care’ sign over the entrance to another wing, where the very sick and/or terminally ill patients are.
I walked into the ward and all of the medical staff were surprised to see Santa. After posing for several photos, I asked if it would be OK to say hello to the patients. They replied in unison:“Of course you can – you’re Santa Claus!”
I made my way around the ward, entering each of the rooms and holding the hand of each of the patients. I didn’t know what to say, but what suddenly burst out of my mouth was “I know that you’ve always believed in me and I just wanted to drop by to say hello.”
One patient – an older man wearing a Christmas hat – said he had awoken that morning excited with the hope that maybe a friend or family member might drop by for a visit.
But none had… until Santa Claus.
He held my hand for the longest time and just stared at me. He then muttered, “Thank you, Santa. Merry Christmas.”
I turned to leave his room – I didn’t want him to see me cry.
After all, he believed in Santa Claus.
And now, so do I.
Daniel St. Andrews is a volunteer in the chemo room at Fraser Valley Centre, an actor and a blogger – www.danielstandrews.net