“Last year, on December 12, 2019, I was Christmas shopping with my son, Andrew, and my granddaughter, Tegan, who was 5 at the time. Tegan and I went into Nordstrom to see if they had any fun party dresses. She saw a table that had paper and pencils to write a letter to Santa Claus. A red mailbox, emblazoned in gold with ‘Letters to Santa,’ was set just to the side.
As soon as she saw this, she was on a mission. She had to write to Santa. I told her, ‘We can come back because it is getting late.’ She was adamant about doing this. She said, ‘It is important, and it has to be done now. It can’t wait.’
She sat down, picked up a pencil, and put it to the paper. She carefully wrote each letter. At times, she wasn’t happy with how a letter looked. She would erase it and write it again. That’s probably a curse she inherited from me. She said, ‘Kiki, I need help. I know what I want to ask for, but don’t know how to spell it. How do you spell, ‘I want a kidney for my brother?’ With that, my eyes filled with tears.
I had to bite the inside of my cheek so I wouldn’t start ugly crying right there in the middle of the Nordstrom kids’ section. I had to let her finish what she started without her worrying about why I was crying. On another piece of paper, I wrote down what she asked for.
She started writing again… slowly. At times, she sat and pondered. As she sat, hovered, over that piece of paper that lay in front of her on the red kid-sized table, I was curious to know what was going through that little compassionate head of hers. I knew whatever she was thinking, it was not about herself. It never is. She’s always thinking of others. As I watched her looking at her letter, it prompted visions of Jimmy Fallon when he writes his ‘thank you’ notes.
It took quite a while for her to complete this very important letter. At last, she was finished. You could see how proud she was of her accomplishment as she gazed at her letter. She carefully adhered a stamp to the front of the card and was eager to put it in the mailbox.
I couldn’t help but think although someone would see it, it will end up in the trash soon afterward. The grandmother in me wanted to keep that letter. I wanted to save it and put it in her ‘baby’ book so one day she could look back on it. I knew how much this meant to her and how insistent she was when she told me she had to write a letter to Santa. Who am I to interfere with her plans?
This wasn’t about me and my notion of her seeing her letter to Santa when she was older. As much as I wanted to take that letter home, I had to let go of the thought of her reminiscing through memories in her ‘baby’ book. So I did the next best thing, or so I thought. My intention was to take a video of her putting it in the mailbox. To my dismay, I had my camera set to ‘photo’ and not ‘video.’ Oh well, I at least got one photo of her walking towards the mailbox. It was better than nothing.
As I look back on these photos and video, I’m so glad I let the evening follow its course. Tegan was on a mission to find a kidney for her little brother, Hank. She’s had a very strong bond with him, ever since he was born. She was his big sister and his protector. Her letter to Santa meant everything to her. What was to follow was out of my control and that was okay. Just knowing what’s in my granddaughter’s heart is good enough for me. Besides, I have always believed in miracles.
Fast forward to almost a year to the day Tegan wrote that letter. On November 11, 2020, at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis, Tegan’s little brother, Hank, was the recipient of a kidney transplant. Given the year we have had with the pandemic, this was the best news of 2020. Everything else was insignificant at this point. It was truly a miracle, thanks to Hank’s incredible medical team and kidney donor.
One morning, about a week after Hank’s kidney transplant, I received a heartwarming text from Tegan and Hank’s mom, Tish. She told me about an encounter she, Tegan, and her mom had at the grocery store the evening before. Across the way, Tegan spotted a man who looked like Santa Claus. She stood still in her tracks. She quietly got her Grandma Mary’s attention and told her, ‘That is the real Santa,’ even though he wasn’t wearing his famous red suit.
The jolly man with the white beard took notice of Tegan. He walked towards her and greeted her with a big, ‘HO, HO, HO!’ Without missing a beat, Tegan took the opportunity to thank Santa, ‘Thank you for making my Christmas wish from last year come true.’ Santa was quick with his response and asked her, ‘Can you help me remember your wish because I am getting old and can’t think that far back.’
Tegan reminded him she sent him a letter asking for a kidney for her little brother, Hank. She let him know her wish came true because Hank finally got his new kidney that week. After her explanation, her mom said it appeared Santa was about to cry.
‘Santa,’ wherever you are, thank you for granting Tegan’s wish. It was the best gift ever. This year, my wish is for Hank’s kidney donor’s family. Please shower them with peace and comfort. We want them to know that Hank’s family is beyond grateful for giving Hank the gift of life. It’s the most precious gift a person could ever receive. You have given him a second chance at living life to the fullest and you have given his family love, joy, and peace of mind. Please know your beloved child continues to live on in a little boy who is loved by so many. He is already doing things he couldn’t do before and is looking forward to exploring the world with his new kidney, aptly named, Captain America.
Merry Christmas, everybody. If you didn’t believe in Santa Claus or the magic of Christmas before reading this, you probably do now.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelly P. Hyland from Wildwood, Missouri. You can follow her journey on Facebook. You can follow Hank’s Journey on Facebook here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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