A Christmas Do-Over

A Christmas Do-Over

by Jennifer Sue

The cross shaped church was packed as it was every year for the Christmas Eve Family Service. The altar, pulpit, and lectern filled the top arm. The gaily and brightly decorated fifteen foot tall Christmas Tree had temporarily replaced the Baptismal Font on the right arm of the sanctuary. A three foot high nativity sat atop the closed lid of the grand piano in the left arm of the sanctuary. White lights twinkled in the green garland wrapping the railing separating the congregation from the choir and organ in the area between the arms of the cross. The main congregational seating was in twin rows of twenty pews each sitting 12 people. A flickering single candle sat atop each seven foot tall candelabra which were clamped to the inner and outer sides of every other pew.

The pastor was in the middle of his sermon pausing for a dramatic moment of silence when the door from the right vestibule opened with a squee from a worn hinge. A bedraggled emaciated figure staggered in looking around the sanctuary blinking with amazement in the dazzling light. Alerted by the noisy hinge everyone turned to see who entered. In that moment the sermon was kaput.

“Ex...excuse me,” the small person asked in a small quavering voice. “I... I’m looking for Harry and Livie Clark...”

Nearly everyone turned to look at Harry and Livie. The couple were a mainstay of the congregation. They were the somebody’s of the church... as in ‘Why doesn’t somebody do this?’ or ‘Why doesn’t somebody take care of that?’ The couple stood and looked at the scrawny child.

“We’re Harry and Livie,” Harry stated. “Who’s asking?”

The waif swallowed nervously as she gazed at the big man. “I... I’m you grandchild.”

“Judy’s you mother?” Livie gasped as she blanched while dropping down into her seat.

“Where is Judy,” Harry asked with a raspy voice.

“In the car... I... I slid off the road and we rolled... she banged her head and I couldn’t wake her up. I saw the church and came for help. Please, you’ve got to help her! She’s been real sick... she insisted we had to get to the church for the service... when she couldn’t drive any more she made me drive... I tried... I really did!” With that the clearly exhausted preteen collapsed to the floor in tears.

Harry grabbed his coat and headed for the door. Several other men and two women who were nurses quickly followed. Once outside they spotted the headlights of a car rolled on it’s top in a pasture about two blocks from the rural church. All but one of them took off at a run towards the crashed car. The person who didn’t was on the phone calling 911 to report the crash and ask for medical assistance.

Inside the church two women knelt beside the sobbing child as they attempted to calm the exhausted youth.

After recovering from the shock Livie quickly joined them. “Child, I’m your grandmother Livie. What’s your name?” She whispered as she tenderly touched the sobbing shoulder.

“Kylie,” she whispered fearfully. “Mommy said you’d take care of me if she... if she didn’t make it.” A heartrending gulping sob shook the girl. “She promised you won’t treat me like you did her brother... he killed himself because of the way you and grandpa Harry treated him. That’s why she ran away from you.”

Livie gasped in shock and began to cry. Those nearby who overheard the quiet exchanged were stunned.

Nearly everyone knew that 14 years before Bryan Clark had hung himself in his bedroom while wearing the Christmas dress his older sister Judy had worn two years before. The suicide note plainly declared he was a girl and couldn’t continue to let the male puberty destroy her body. Brianna condemned her parents for being so Christian they couldn’t help her. Their disgust and self righteous condemnation of her being transgender left her no choice but end her existence. Naturally Harry and Livie had tried to hush the truth but Judy was furious. She’d known Brian was different from other boys and when he’d begged their parents for help with his gender conflict they’d scoffed and scolded then tried to force him to man up. It was during the funeral service when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to say something about the deceased that Judy took the microphone.

“Brian took his own life because our parents rejected him,” she’d declared. “Everyone knew Brian wasn’t a macho guy. The reason was because he was transgender. Puberty was turning his body into that of a man and BRIANNA couldn’t deal with it.”

“Judy, that’s enough,” Harry shouted as he rose and strode to take the microphone from her.

“Stay the hell away, you monster,” Judy snarled as she pulled a revolver from her skirt. “I’m going to let everyone know that my SISTER hung herself wearing my old Christmas dress because YOU refused to seek help for her gender issues. Her death note was right... you’re so busy being a judgmental hypocritical self righteous Christian you’ve lost sight of what Christ taught... to love our fellow humans and assist them... not to judge and condemn them! Daddy... I hope you and momma rot in hell!”

With that she dropped the microphone and with the pistol pointed at her father, backed toward the rear exit of the church and fled into the parking lot. Using her set of keys she jumped in her parents car and tore out of the parking lot. When she reached home, she jumped out of their car and hopped into hers, tearing out of the parking space and heading away. Everything she wanted she’d packed into the car the night before.

Needless to say the Christmas Eve Service was disrupted. Instead of trying to resume the sermon the pastor suggested the service continue by singing carols.

Despite his age Harry reached the upside down car first. The roof was slightly crushed jambing the doors. The driver’s door window was broken out and in the light snow cover it was clear to see where the child had crawled out and stagger/ran to the church. Peering inside he saw the pale drawn face of his daughter dangling from the seatbelt. With a heart rending sob he rushed to the passenger door. Crouching down, he grasped the twisted passenger door and began to exert every bit of his strength. For almost a minute he pulled then the metal began to groan. With a mighty grunt the door sprung open. Two guys crawled inside to hold the woman while another cut the seatbelt. Gently they lowered her to a blanket spread on the inside of the dented roof. Harry flexed his strained muscles panting to catch his breath as he watched them drag the blanket with Judy from the car. The nurses promptly began to triage the barely breathing woman.

The paramedics rushed across the snowy meadow as soon as they arrived. Taking over from the nurses they put Judy on oxygen and transferred her onto a carry stretcher and began the trek back to the ambulance. The service ended as they exited the pasture and the congregation began exiting the building.

Livie helped Kylie to her feet and led the trembling child outside in time to see the paramedics loading her mother into the ambulance. “Mommie,” Kylie screamed and broke free from Livie to rush to her mother.

She reached the ambulance just as the attendant was preparing to close the rear door and dove inside just before the door closed. The shocked attendant opened the door to pull the distraught girl out. Livie and Harry reached the door in time to hear Kylie plead.

Scambling to her knees Kylie took her mothers limp hand and kissed it. “Mommie, please don’t die! I’don’t want to live with them! I’ll kill myself like aunt Brianna if I have to! Please mommy, please live!”

Harry was stunned to hear the distraught girl’s plea. Livie knew what to do and turned to the attendant. “The patient is my daughter and the girl is her daughter. Please let us ride to the hospital.”

The attendant knew the outlook wasn’t good and on Christmas Eve couldn’t refuse the heartfelt request. With a nod of his head he helped Evie inside.

Reaching over she placed her hand on Judy’s forehead. Fourteen years of anguish welled up from her tortured soul. “Judy, your daughter needs you. If she’s like Brianna, so be it. It will be our chance at redemption. Please Judy, fight to stay with us!”

“M...mom,” Judy gasped as he eyes fluttered open to see her mother and daughter next to her inside the ambulance. “I... I...”

“Shush, princess,” Livie whispered. “We’ll talk after you get better. I want to hear all about my grandaughter.”

Judy smiled weakly and closed her eyes, falling asleep for the first time in days.

“I’ll follow with the car,” Harry declared as he looked at the trembling girl. “Sweetheart, your nana’s right. If you’re like Brianna, I’ll move heaven and earth to see you become the person you truly are. Judy, please pull through. We need you too.” Harry sniffled and wiped the tears running down his cheeks as the attendant closed the ambulance.

Harry could barely see the way to his car. When he did he felt the hand of the pastor take the keys from his trembling hands. “I’ll drive you in,” Pastor Jim declared. “It looks like it’ll be long night and my prayers may help.”

Harry didn’t even argue but climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up.

Entering the emergency room the pastor identified himself and Harry. Judy was being treated in a triage room and Livie and Kylie were with her. Emergency surgery had sewn up the internal tears and allowed the accumulated blood to be cleaned out of her body. Soon the family was reunited. Whole blood was being fed into Judy as fast as each liter could be drained. Kylie was drawn into Pastor Jim’s prayers of praise, redemption and salvation.

As the hours sped by, Kylie began to open up to the strangers who were her grandparents. The sordid tale of a hand to mouth existence unfolded. The beatings she and her mother received at the hands of the man who was her father. His disgust and downright hatred of his wife for bearing him a queer son. The final beating a week before where they fled for their lives, not realizing Judy had suffered major internal injuries and bleeding until Judy began to grow weak and disoriented. The disjointed 500 mile trip to reach the church.

Harry was furious and asked for the man’s name and address which Kylie was able to provide. The police had been notified of the beating victim and were eager to interview Kylie to get the information. Her own bruises were also documented.

It was late Christmas afternoon when Judy awoke. It was with delight she saw her mother, father and daughter sitting by her bedside with Pastor Jim leading them inprayer. “Hi,” she whispered.

Pastor Jim smiled and nodded to heaven in apprciation as the family jumped and rushed to the bed. Kylie hugged her mother as she cried tears of joy. Tears were flowing down the cheeks of her parents.

A few hours later Harry stood and looked at his family. “Judy, you were right fourteen years ago. Your mother and I were wrong. Our stupidity killed Brianna and drove you from our lives. It took another tragedy to bring you home. But here you are and we have a chance to make up for our stupidity. Kylie, you say you are girl with a plumbing issue. We believe you. We will do all we can to help you correct the plumbing mixup. That is if you two can find it in your hearts to give us another chance.”

“What do you think Kylie,” Judy asked. “Should we give them a do-over?”

“Isn’t Christmas all about miracles?” Kylie asked

The family joined in a warm long overdue hug.

Pastor Jim smiled an gazed heaven ward. “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for another miraculous gift.” Then he left the family to enjoy their best ever Christmas gift.



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