Ted Atoka’s Christmas Story, 2017

A friend of mine has a child who is hospitalized with a terminal illness. I accompanied him on a recent visit—the most gut-wrenching experience I’ve ever encountered. I embrace life as I live it, and do not infringe on anybody’s religious belief or non-belief. It isn’t my business. However, I’m a writer, and it has become a tradition for me to share a Christmas story around this time of year. I’ve written a very special one for 2017. It’s called “A Tree-Top Angel.”

Place take a moment while reading, and review the green-colored graphic.

–A Tree-Top Angel

I remember the day my best friend David and I visited his terminally ill daughter in hospital. She was expected to make it to the New Year but perhaps not much longer. I went, and was moved to tears.

How come? Thousands of creaky-jointed people like me have bumped around the world for nearly eight decades. And this poor kid can’t make it to her twelfth birthday?

We were munching on popcorn when a pair of nurses cut short our visit. They needed to move their giggling patient to a treatment area. She’d be ready for visitors again in about three hours.

My friend clung to his daughter’s hand. “No sweat, Dave. Let’s go to the mall. We’ll get a bite to eat and check out a few shops. It’s a half mile from here and not out of our way.”

He agreed, and his daughter gave us a wave on her way down the hall, and off we went. We had hot dogs, fries, and iced tea. David looked up at me with a red smear of catsup on his nose. “I wish her room was brighter and had a better view.”

“Me too, Bub, but we can change that. Finish up and we’ll do a little shopping.” I had a plan. Her room would soon be the envy of everyone in the hospital.

She was waiting for us when we got back to the hospital. Dave had bought her two pairs of bright colored pajamas and two fluffy robes, and probably too many of her favorite candies.

I was about to show her what was in one of my sacks when an old grammar school friend walked into the room. I didn’t see him at first because my back was turned, but I recognized his resonant voice.

I straightened, swung around, and we embraced with joy. “Nathan, it’s good to see you. Gosh, it’s been years since you moved to the city.”

“Yes, Ted and David. I am like you know who. I have returned.”

David’s face brightened. He winked at me and shook the hand of our dark-suited, long-lost friend.

“You know how word travels, David. My wife Ruth, over lox and bagels this morning, told me I was visiting your lovely daughter today.” Nathan cupped a hand over each of the girl’s ears. “And so, it has happened.”

I held up a shiny shopping bag. “And so it has. You’re taller than us. You can help bring light into this place.”

I had bought strings of holiday lights, and we hung them from corner to corner.
When we plugged them in, the little girl remarked, “Wow, Daddy, those are pretty. Cool!”

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, kiddo. Check this out.” I opened a very tall sack and lifted out a four-foot table-top Christmas tree, complete with miniature twinkle lights and colorful decorations.

The excited girl turned to me and then to David who was looking at our suited visitor. Nathan stroked his beard, appraised the holiday tree, glanced at the strings of LED lights, and proclaimed, “Of course, a tree. How lovely. Come, I’ll help. We’ll put it over here.”

As soon as the tree was positioned, drawing several ooh’s and ah’s from the patient, Nathan helped me arrange a few tiny and gaily decorated packages under it.

David’s daughter clapped her hands. “Oh gosh, that’s beautiful.”

“Wait. We’re not finished yet!” And I lifted out a delicately painted figurine of a beautiful young girl in flowing silver robes. She wore a warm smile and both her arms were extended.

I was confused once again when I caught the glances from the little girl to her dad, and from her dad to Nathan, and from Nathan back to the little girl. The non-vocalized activity quit when Nathan cut loose a joyous guffaw and bobbled his head. “Of course, how fitting, a tree-top angel. Yes. By all means. How appropriate.”

I was relieved and glad they liked it. I brought it closer to the girl and explained, “It is a tradition in my family, that the idea of a tree-top angel represents children who have left us. And so, each year at Christmas, we celebrate their short lives by placing an angel on our Christmas tree to remind us, and everybody else, of the love we share for each other with the hope that it will radiate out into the world and bring peace to all.”

Animated now, the hospital patient sat upright in her bed. “So, Rabbi Nathan, how about that, huh?”

My tall friend in his dark suit turned a serious face to his questioner. “A wonderment, my dear. Such things we must contemplate.” He clapped his hands. “Marvelous.”

And that is all I shall tell about this incident. Oh, except to mention a word about the patient. The little girl’s name?


–You are cordially invited to view Ted Atoka’s web site. Click here or transport.

Tree top angel.



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