It’s never easy losing someone you love, but it’s particularly difficult the month before Christmas. Normally Jimmy loved this time of year, but nothing was able to help him get over losing his best friend. Charlie had been there since he was born and now that Jimmy was seven, this was the first time he had ever faced the world without his trusted companion. That’s the trouble with dogs; they never live long enough.
All month he had secretly begged Santa in letters, emails, and prayers that he would wake up Christmas morning to find a new Charlie. Ideally he would look and act like his former pet with all the training already done, but Jimmy understood if that wasn’t possible. He knew Santa was good, but he had his limits.
Jimmy always loved Christmas Eve and going to service with his family where they sang carols and said Merry Christmas to friends, but it was hard for him to really engage in the festivities because in the back of his mind he had doubt that tomorrow would bring him what he truly wished for that Christmas. During the pastor’s short holiday message, he taught the importance of having faith and that all things are possible if you believe without any doubt. Jimmy did his best to convince himself that he fully believed without any doubt… but he had a fear that he did, which he wasn’t sure was the same or not.
Christmas morning Jimmy didn’t give up hope when he got up and ran to the tree to find there wasn’t anyone there ready to jump on him and lick his face. His older brother was there who would’ve happily jumped on him to give him a noogie, but that’s not the same. Jimmy didn’t give up hope when there weren’t any ornaments knocked on the ground by a happy tail. He didn’t even give up hope when he there wasn’t any barking because he told himself that his parents were hiding the new Charlie in another room with a muzzle for a big reveal moment like Santa had made a deal with them. Soon all the gifts were open and his parents were in the kitchen getting brunch together because the gift giving portion of the day was over and Jimmy’s hope was replaced by deep sadness. It was almost like losing Charlie all over again.
Jimmy knew his parents loved Christmas as much as he did, so he had tried his best to act normal the last couple days, especially since Santa was watching, but while his family was distracted, he went to his room, curled up in his bed, and started to cry. He was too young to self reflect over what had really upset him whether it was not having Charlie there, Santa not bringing him a new dog, or the new fear that his unbelief caused him to miss out on getting a new dog, but he was smart enough to let himself have his emotions.
Eventually Jimmy put on a happy face (or as happy as he could muster) and he went with his family to dinner at his grandmother’s house. Part of him hoped the new Charlie would be there, but why would Santa bring him his gift to the wrong house? As he suspected, Santa hadn’t and despite everything in the night being pleasant, it was like a light torture for Jimmy who continued to “act” like he was happy.
At the end of the night, when everyone was getting ready for bed, Jimmy’s mom came into his room and asked, “Is everything okay?”
Jimmy sighed the typical response, “I’m fine.”
“You didn’t quite seem like yourself tonight,” pushed his mom.
“I don’t know,” replied Jimmy like a teenager trying to avoid an engaging conversation with his parent. He may have been seven, but this response was pretty universal for people who are trying to avoid getting into anything serious.
“My mommy-senses are telling me you have something you need to share,” remarked his mom.
After a short pause, Jimmy cracked and blurted, “I asked Santa for a new Charlie and I didn’t get one!”
“Oh,” said a surprised mom. “I didn’t know you asked Santa for a dog.”
“I sent private messages to him,” confessed Jimmy. “I was afraid you would tell Santa it was a bad idea… is that what happened? Did you find out that’s what I wanted and then you told Santa not to bring me a new Charlie?” Jimmy’s tone sounded hopeful. It was as if he wanted to hear that’s why Santa didn’t give him what he asked for and it wasn’t because of anything else.
“No, that’s not what happened,” confessed his mom. “I’m sure there was a very good reason though. Santa always has a good reason.”
“The pastor said if we believe without any doubt we will get what we ask for from God. I tried not to have doubt… I think I was able to not have any doubt… is God mad that I asked Santa for a new pet and not Him?”
“I’m pretty sure God doesn’t get jealous of Santa. I hear they like to work together. Although there’s a chance they fight over who has the better white beard,” joked his mom. Charlie kind of smiled at that, but he was too sad to really appreciate her joke. “I didn’t know you wanted a new Charlie. I thought you were still too sad from losing him that you didn’t want to replace him so soon.”
“It’s the only thing that’s helped get me through losing him – the idea of not being alone anymore,” confessed Jimmy.
And with that, Jimmy’s mom started to tear up. Her mommy instincts quickly kicked in and she started hugging him and she held him tight while they both let tears fall down their cheeks. It was one of those sad, but incredibly tender moments.
The next morning Jimmy’s mom woke him up and cheerfully announced, “I have a surprise for you. Get ready because we’re going out!”
When they got in the car, Jimmy’s mom put a scarf over his eyes and said to keep it on until she told him to take it off. Jimmy could see out the bottom of the scarf – like you always can – but even when he lifted his head to see out the window, he couldn’t figure out where they were going.
When they came to a stop, Jimmy’s mom helped him get out of the car and manoeuvred him to be standing in him in a particular spot. After taking a deep breath, she told Jimmy to take off the blindfold. He looked up and saw a sign. Reading it aloud, he questioned, “SPCA? We’re at an animal shelter?”
“We are here to find you a pet,” gleamed his mom… at least she gleamed for a second. Jimmy’s reaction was not what she had expected as he remained downcast. “What is it? I thought you wanted a new dog.”
“I do, but why didn’t Santa bring me one? Was I not good enough? Did I do something wrong?” questioned Jimmy.
“Right… that,” his mom nodded. “Well, this morning I double checked under the tree and I found this letter. It somehow got tucked under the tree skirt, so we didn’t see it.”
Jimmy reached up and took the letter whispering, “Thank you,” like he was taught. Very carefully he opened it. A letter from Santa was a big deal, so he wanted to treasure it… that and he was afraid of there being bad news in it. Because of the latter, he read the letter to himself. He wanted to filter anything out in case any of his secret indiscretions were mentioned: “Dear Jimmy, I’m very sorry you lost your best friend recently. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. I’m very old, so I’ve lost quite a few best friends myself over the years, and it’s always very difficult. I completely understand why you’d want another dog, but unfortunately, I learned a long time ago that I can’t give live animals as gifts. Please know this has nothing to do with you. Instead, it’s more about the animals. You see, animals are tough to transport with all the noise they make making it hard for me to sneak around and not go deaf. Plus, some dogs don’t like other dogs and cats are… cats. The fighting and playing made the sleigh ride very difficult. On top of this, there is the slight problem of the sleigh ride causing motion sickness and… well, it got pretty gross. Mrs. Claus was not happy on laundry day. The bigger problem, however, was many parents were not happy with me. A live animal is a big responsibility and has a lot of costs that many parents aren’t ready to take on. Even if I knew some parents were okay with me bringing a pet, it made the other ones look bad, which led to many people acting out and being put on the Naughty List. In the end, I needed to make it a policy not to give pets. I’m sure you can understand that an angry mommy is very scary, so I take them into careful consideration… for my own safety. Hopefully, your parents will be able to help you with your hope of getting a new pet, especially because it’s better that you pick out your own best friend. If they won’t let you right now; I will make sure they get coal in their stocking next year. Merry Christmas from someone who cares about you – Santa.”
“What does it say?” asked Jimmy’s mom.
“Santa said he’s sorry, and that he can’t give me a pet,” replied Jimmy who seemed to be digesting what he just read. “He also said mommy’s are scary.”
“He sounds like a very wise man,” smirked his dad to which Jimmy’s mom gave him a joking elbow poke.
“So it had nothing to do with you; that’s good news,” stated his mom. “It’s not like you had feared. So… shall we go in and find you a new best friend?”
Jimmy looked down at the letter and paused. His parents looked at each other wondering what the next move was because they were out of ideas of how to make it better. Suddenly, Jimmy bolted towards the shelter and threw the door wide open as he ran inside. He was about to get his Christmas wish, and it was even better than getting a dog under the Christmas tree. He got to choose his own best friend, which is the way it should be and he knew Santa cared about him. Out of something terrible, something wonderful was born.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)