The doorbell rang followed by frantic knocking. I expected it to be a neighbourhood school child selling chocolate bars or requesting cans for a Christmas food drive. It wasn’t. My neighbour, Romeo stood at the door, looking frazzled. He told me our fellow neighbour, Bob was in trouble. That a stranger stopped after seeing Bob lying on the sidewalk and called an ambulance for him. Romeo handed me the stranger’s business card.
“He said he’d pay for the ambulance. He thinks Bob’s having a heart attack!”
Romeo asked if I could get in touch with Bob’s wife, Sandy, who was at work. Romeo was just passing by when he, too had noticed Bob.
I googled Sandy’s department store’s phone number. I called and listened to a litany of choices for areas- twice. I finally reached Sandy. She was only there because she had no time that day to take her lunch. I tried to break the news to her gently. I thought of Romeo’s words to me: “Bob’s in bad shape. I hardly recognized him.”
My family said a prayer for him. That’s all we could do.
Later, the doorbell rang once more. This time it was Sandy. I braced myself for the expectant bad news. Sandy had driven to the nearest ER only to learn Bob’s ambulance had been re-routed. She located Bob in the second hospital’s ER. He was in stable condition. Sandy continued her story.
“Bob’s vital signs were better than usual. He’s fine. He had walked to Tecumseh Mall (a distance of 6 km round trip) and was almost home. He decided to “run in place” a bit to warm up. And, then he fell.”
When the stranger arrived, Bob was unable to get up. This happens when you have Parkinson’s. And, Bob’s speech was a bit difficult to understand, naturally. He was drenched in sweat from walking and running while wearing a warm ski jacket. It was easy to figure out why the stranger thought Bob was in trouble.
When Bob learned his wife was present in the ER, he told the paramedics, “Don’t let her see what’s in the bag!”
What happened was Bob had walked to the shopping mall while his wife was at work because he wanted to buy her a Christmas gift. He could no longer drive because of his Parkinson’s. But, his independent spirit was still strong. As was his love for his wife. He wanted to buy her a Christmas present secretly while she worked evenings.
Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol that the true meaning of Christmas is “to give up one’s very self- to think only of others- to bring happiness to others.”
Bob showed the paramedics, the nurses, and his wife the true meaning of Christmas. Peace and joy everyone. A precious baby brought it into the world. We can keep it in our hearts and show it with our lives.