10 Years Later…a sad and beautiful world

My wise husband often reminds me, “It’s a sad and beautiful world.” This story is like that. It’s beautiful and sad.

You see, 10 years ago today, our son Michael donated his brain and spine to research when he died from childhood brain cancer. He came up with the idea himself, no doctor or friend suggested he help research in this way. Then, five days later my seemingly healthy mom had a heart attack at Mikey’s funeral … out of the blue she died at her grandson’s funeral lunch.

You may be wondering: where is the beautiful part? You see the Santa pictured here? My mom and dad bought each of us kids a different “Caring Santa” many years ago, before Mikey got sick. They chose the Santa shown here for me. Every year my mom would show me the Santas as she put them up on the mantel and say, “This one is yours.”

After Mom died, I’d go to their Michigan home and put up a few decorations with Dad and he’d always point out that this Santa was mine, just like Mom did. It didn’t escape me that my Santa was the only one with a little boy who was “sick” (he’s on crutches). Back when Michael was diagnosed with cancer I was taken aback by the appropriateness of their choice.

But it wasn’t until this year, as I was putting Santa away that I read the pamphlet in the box and the full message of this statue hit home. It gobsmacked me with the hidden meaning behind the gift. You see, I always thought Santa was giving the boy the plane as a gift, but if you look closely, the boy appears to have just given Santa his favorite toy! It begs the question, who is the giver here and who is the receiver?

With Michael, we knew his donation would be a gift to research: his brain and spine would contribute to scientific discovery and better treatments. What we didn’t realize is what Michael and our family would receive in turn. When Michael chose to donate his body, he discovered a deep sense of purpose, something that held and filled him throughout his dying days. Through that time, and now, our family is comforted knowing a part of him lives on in those research labs. So again, who is the giver here and who is the receiver?

And the giving continues, because the company that makes these Caring Santas? Well, they donate a portion of each sale to “Santa’s Children Christmas Village”, a nonprofit dedicated to serving terminally ill children and their families.

My parents could never have known how many layers of “gift” there are to this one Caring Santa. Sadly, we lost my dad this year, so Santa now sits on my mantle. When I see him there, I am reminded of the boy who gave the gift of himself to science, my mom and dad who loved us all so generously, and the sacred truth that it is in giving that we receive. And that truth isn’t sad…only beautiful.



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