Living In The Christmas Tree

Living In The Christmas Tree – a Christmas short story about family

Copyright Kristen James, all rights reserved.


We used to worry about finding Libby a heart, but now we only think of the best way to let her go. The understanding doctors let us bring a small Christmas tree into her hospital room and decorate it.

“Move it closer,” she asked, “Please. I like looking up into the branches.”

“Let’s see what we can do.” I had the two-and-a-half foot Noble Fir on an end stand, and I pushed it as close as I dare. Who knew what would happen if I disturbed all of her machines. “Can you see better?”

Slightly turning her head, she smiled as she looked at it. We’ve always had Noble Firs for our Christmas tree because their branches are spaced, leaving room for ornaments to hang. The kids especially like hanging tinsel.

“I used to wish I could live in those little worlds.” Libby said, looking between the branches at the scenes made by our figurine ornaments. I remembered her then, every year, lying under the tree, watching the lights and ornaments. Gazing into the tree’s branches now, Libby smiled. There haven’t been many smiles in the last few months as her condition deteriorated. Finally, the doctors said there weren’t any available hearts, and she would need one right away to change things. Dr. Lane’s eyes had filled with tears when he said, “We’ll make it as comfortable as possible . . . we’ll do our best to make it a great holiday.”

Losing my daughter is the worst Christmas present I can think of, for anyone, but I turned my thinking around and promised to make this her Christmas.

Andrew, Libby’s younger brother, and Joanna, her older sister, were hanging ornaments, asking Libby each time, “Where do you want this one?”

Libby has been so brave through all this. Joanna and Andrew, too, have been strong and haven’t cried in front of Libby. I haven’t done so well in that category.

“Leave room for the presents!” Andrew sternly told Joanna, as always trying to be a leader.

Joanna gasp, suddenly remembering something. “Libby, wait till you see what we got you!”

Libby’s eyelids flickered. She looked terribly tired but whispered hoarsely, “Why did you do that? You know I don’t need anything. You’ll just have to get it back in a few days.”

I turned away quickly and dug in my purse for something, anything, and tried not to hear the awful silence behind me. When I had my eyes under control, I went to the Christmas box and pulled out one of the small, shiny ornaments to hang, forcing a smile for the kids.

Libby sighed such a quiet little sigh that I barely heard it. “Sorry…you can get me something if you want.”

I’ve agonized in the stores already, searching for something for her. Her and I both know she can’t keep it, but still… it’s the last chance I will ever have to buy my baby a present. When people talk about having a difficult time finding a present, they don’t know. They really don’t know.

I glanced down at her and followed Libby’s gaze into the tree. I found myself wishing we could all go there, and be together as hanging figurines, forever. I took her hand, overwhelmed once again by the helplessness.

The door popped open with a harsh click and swoosh, followed by an animated Dr. Lane. Three nurses rushed in with him. I felt my own heart try to stop. Not now. I wasn’t ready. By habit, I looked at her monitors but they didn’t look any different.

“We have a heart! We have a heart!”

They grabbed wires faster than I could think, moving quickly, doing things I didn’t understand. I only saw Libby’s bewildered look.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said because she looks scared. Her grip on my hand tightens.

“We have to get her in right now.” Dr. Lane grabbed my other hand. “Merry Christmas.”

I looked at my daughter but couldn’t see through my tears. Someone out there . . . who isn’t there anymore . . . gave us this gift. I hope they felt ready, unlike my Libby, and I hope they went home for Christmas.

The doctor and nurses began rolling Libby out of the room. She looked exhausted still, but managed a smile, and told Joanna, “Wait for me to open presents, okay?”


Free Christmas story, Christmas author, Christmas tree, the meaning of Christmas, family, holidays, heart transplant, saving your child



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