Not a creature was stirring…

Originally published on December 24, 2012

It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and once again it didn’t feel like Christmas.

It had been years since I last celebrated Christmas – but I remember it well.  It was in 1983 at my parents’ place in Midland, Ontario.  My family always got together to celebrate Christmas at my parent’s home – but I had missed the last couple of Christmases because I was living in Vancouver.

Dad came to the Toronto airport to pick me up – I had yet to see their new home in Midland – but I was more excited about seeing my Mom and brothers and sisters and my niece and nephew.  That’s what Christmas was all about to the St. Andrews family – being together and enjoying our unique traditions.

Some of those traditions included arriving on Christmas Eve and spending the night – so we could all get up together – just like when we were all growing up at our home in Oshawa and then later in Georgetown.

At my parents home in Georgetown, my Dad had built a fantastic bar in the rec room, and he would wear a Christmas hat while he served drinks from his perch on a stool behind the bar – which he considered “sacred” ground.  You NEVER went behind the bar when Dad was on duty – the words “self-serve” did not exist in his bar.

And as we arrived on Christmas Eve, the first thing you heard when you entered their house was the laughter and shouting from downstairs.  A few hugs and kisses with Mom and then you would head downstairs to reunite with the clan.

Early on Christmas morning – probably no later than 6:00 AM, Dad would be the first one to awake – eager to act as Santa.  We would all gather around the Christmas Tree in the family room, and Dad would give each person one gift to open – beginning with my Mom.  Everyone would watch quietly as each person opened their present – and then there would be loud outbursts of “ooh’s and ahh’s.”

My brothers, sisters and I would then prepare a sumptuous breakfast for everyone – and let Mom have the day off from the kitchen.  Immediately after, we would all gather at the Christmas Tree and continue to open all the gifts.

About mid-morning, Dad would announce that the bar was open.  Later, Mom would bring a platter of Scotch Eggs for us to snack on.

And then about mid-afternoon, we would all gather in the dining room for a sumptuous turkey dinner.

My brother-in-law Brian – a professional photographer, would get everyone together for a family portrait – which we would later receive framed copies.

Then some of us would start to leave to go to our respective homes – which always made my Mom cry.  She was happiest when she had every one of us together – as a family – and still pleaded with us – “Do you have to go so soon?”

So, on this morning of Christmas Eve, I was having a coffee and looking at one of those family portraits – and I got homesick.  Homesick because I missed my Mom and Dad – and family – and those magical Christmases we shared.

And I missed not having that special feeling that I used to get every year – at Christmas.

Two years ago, I went to Costco and 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 – and desperately hoping that the lights would bring back that special Christmas feeling.

But they didn’t.

Last week I wrote a blog about buying a complete Santa Claus outfit – so I could visit all of the patients at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre – where I received radiation and chemotherapy treatments – and where I have been volunteering every week for the past 16 months.

As I made my way through the various clinics – almost all of the patients’ faces would light up with excitement.  I heard 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 little Danny again!

Little Danny (1952)

I didn’t rush home to decorate the house with lights though; within hours of leaving the Cancer Centre, I lost the feeling – which made me sad.

 

But on the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to get dressed as Santa Claus, again – and go to the Cancer Centre and Surrey Memorial Hospital for a visit.

As soon as I walked into the hospital 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 hugged her and was posing with her for the picture – when her daughter suddenly said: “Mom, why are you crying?”

Before the mother could answer, I squeezed her closer to me and asked her why she was crying.  She stared up at me and with tears rolling down her cheek, she cried, “Because I never thought I would ever meet Santa Claus!”

I kissed her on the cheek and whispered into her ear “I will always be with you.”

I toured the Cancer Centre and then walked down the hall to the adjoining Surrey Memorial 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 of the patients’ 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 of the floor.  “This is where the very sick and terminally ill patients are,” I thought to myself.

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 okay 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 then 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.”

In the last room I visited, there was a patient – an older man – who was wearing a Christmas hat.  When he saw me, his eyes lit up and said that 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 you, Santa Claus! ‘

He held my hand for the longest time and just stared at me and then muttered: “Thank you Santa – and Merry Christmas.”  I turned to leave his room – my eyes were filling with tears, and I didn’t want him to see me cry.  After all, he believed in Santa Claus.

And now so do I.

Hugs,

Santa Danny

UPDATE: On December 2017, I went to Surrey Memorial Hospital and visited both the palliative care and oncology wards and asked permission to visit the following week as Santa Danny.   I used to visit the cancer center as Santa and would often go to the hospital, afterward.  I also wanted to get permission from the Ronald McDonald House, where I used to volunteer (also located in the hospital).   I had been told by the previous cancer center volunteer coordinator, that the hospital required me to get permission from each of the department heads.  I also have a policy of getting an RCMP criminal background search completed every November.

Each of the department head permitted me to visit as Santa the following week, and  I also called got permission from the Surrey Hospital Building Fund office to get changed into my Santa outfit there, in one of their offices.

On the day of the visit, I got changed into my Santa attire in the Ronald McDonald House and then took the elevator up to the palliative care ward.  But when I stopped by the department head’s office before visiting the patients – I was shocked to learn that I wasn’t allowed to be on the premises as Santa because I hadn’t asked a specific lady’s permission!

I went back to the Ronald McDonald House and got changed.  But I didn’t make it out without crying my eyes out!  After trying to give back, for so long to these two organizations, it’s painful for me to say I won’t be returning to either institution.  And it’s taken me until today, April 26, 2018, to write this update.

But the nursing, therapist, oncologists, and administrative staff know how much I love them, and I’ll find a way to see them in 2018!  ~ Danny

Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):

 

About

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor living in Vancouver, BC (as in almost pregnant). His other passions include: patient advocate (he had Stage 3 Throat Cancer) ; daily power walks at the Promenade in White Rock; and of course, spoiling his dog Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).

8 thoughts on “Not a creature was stirring…

  1. Sad it has to be s special time or event to share the love. But oh do I enjoy you sharing your good and bad times. Thank you

  2. Finley so loved his visits with Santa and most especially the “bells ringing” Christmas too has been difficult for me as both my parents died in December many years apart, however, it does change your Christmas expectations.

    Thank you for sharing your lovely Christmas story.

    Wishing you happy moments,

    Claire

  3. Dan I Know that Santa in fact I have a picture with him.Great post Dan. Mike and I are in Hawaii at the moment but would love to get together with you and the gang when we get back.Take care love Pat

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