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The Paper Christmas Tree
Lou Womack - A CZBrat
December 1988

My most memorable Christmas was the one I spent with my thirty year old son Bob at UCLA Medical Center in 1987.  On December 11th, Bob received  a devastating report, the leukemia had returned ... he was out of remission.

A question arose in my mind, "Christmas in the hospital, how could that be?"  I remember how I wandered aimlessly for hours through the stores in Westwood Village trying to find a way to celebrate Christmas.  His room by now was in "isolation" because the chemotherapy had lowered his immune system and his body would be unable to fight off any germs.

Uncontrollable tears flooded my eyes as I saw Christmas trees and heard carols as I wandered in and out of each shop.  I wondered how on earth I could bring Christmas to my son lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to IV machines.  Anxious thoughts raced through my mind, "A tree would shed too much and the glass ornaments might break.   Bob would cut his foot on the glass because he did go barefoot in his room at times."

As I cried out to the Lord an idea came to mind in the midst of all the confusion. ... a paper Christmas tree like the one my students had made in my classroom.  I would have all the doctors, nurses and family members let me trace their handprint, sign it and cut it out.  Then I would glue each handprint upon a piece of oaktag until I had made a complete triangular designed tree ... hand upon hand.

When I came back to Bob's room, Bob inquired about all of the gift wrapping paper and the piece of oaktag.  I stated in a very confident voice, "We are going to make a Christmas tree!"  I placed Bob's hand on the shiny green wrapping paper and said, "Let me trace your hand."   As I traced it I thought, "Now his hand will go on the very top of the tree."  After  writing his name on the print I glued it on top.  Next I traced my hand and glued it underneath Bob's and wrote "Mom".  His wife, Noreen flew over from Phoenix that weekend.  She traced hers, but then stopped before putting it upon the paper tree. As she reached for a container of gold glitter I noticed that she was applying a wide band of glue on the ring finger of her traced hand and then she took the tree down and did the same to Bob's handprint.  They were newlyweds in October and this would be Bob's reminder when Noreen could not be with him during the weekdays because of her job at an insurance company in Phoenix.

The tree began to take shape as many family members, friends, doctors and nurses visited with Bob in his hospital room.   It was only a paper Christmas tree but the hands that fashioned it were the tender hands of those people who spent their lives  for Bob on a day and night vigil.   Upon the final completion of the tree, I noticed the excitement in Bob's eyes.   I don't think he fully understood how many people were involved in loving and caring for him.

I know in my heart that our Christmas at the hospital was the one my son and I cherished more than any other because it was Bob's last one. Not even the "walls of isolation" could dispel that precious Spirit of Christmas that reigned in a tiny hospital room ... I have often wondered, "Are there any Christmas trees in heaven?"

December 5, 1999

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