18 Dec 2012

7 Days to Christmas

"Please sir, have a heart!"

Just like the others, the man whisked past Rose, treating her no differently from the background scenery.

It was so hard for her to compete against her rivals standing next to their red kettles and ringing their bells, let alone fight with the other numerous distractions in the streets. She was just an insignificant woman holding a metal can, blocking the path of passers-by. But she knew it was something she had to do it for her cause... for her son.

She heard the sound of coins falling into the metal can.

Now who was this donor who looked past the bell ringers and dazzling Christmas lights?

"Thank you so much sir!" she chirped with excitement.

This fine fellow of a gentleman with white hair smiled back. "It's the least I can do, miss...?"

"I'm Rose. You have no idea how much your donation means to me!"

"You're right. I don't. But I do know that it will help the cause you're supporting."

He squinted at the words printed on the can. "...so why are you supporting this cancer foundation? Anybody you know who suffers from cancer?"

The wide grin on Rose's face eased a little.

"Yeah, I do have a few friends who have been stricken with breast cancer. Some have been lucky enough to win their battles, others unfortunately were overcome by it. The survivors all told me the same thing, that it was a very terrifying experience to know that they were fighting a disease that has taken so many lives."

By now, a few pedestrians were curious about the ongoing conversation between this petite lady and this tall white-haired man.

Rose took a deep breath, then continued:

"But the one case that was closest to home was my son Damien. I had to raise him by myself when his father bailed out... I still don't know who the father is. For ten years Damien was the centre of my life, the person who reciprocated my love the most. Then... he started feeling unusually ill. We went to the hospital, and then came the worst moment of my life. The doctor gave the diagnosis: leukaemia."

She took another deep breath. More inquisitive onlookers had gathered around her. But she didn't care. She had to tell her tale.

"...I was just distraught. It was already terrible to have Damien's father disappear on us, but now fate had decided to take away my only son as well! I was so angry, so guilty, as though I had caused the cancer. Of course I knew that was silly, but I felt so hopeless, thinking there was something I could have done to prevent this.

"Then I realised: there was still something I can do right then, and that's to be strong for Damien. It was his fight, but I could still lend him support, just like how I did with my other friends in their similar predicaments. I would accompany him to the chemotherapy sessions, bring him to see movies, buy him the toys he wanted...

"Yet his condition worsened. His immune system was failing, and he couldn't go outdoors anymore. It was hard knowing that I couldn't take him to playgrounds or theme parks and let him enjoy himself, or that he couldn't go to school to learn and interact with friends. But I still found ways to cheer him up. I invited some of his classmates over to visit him. I brought video games that he could play with. I just did anything I could to make him happy, hoping that it'd help in the fight against the cancer."

Rose was fighting back the tears swelling up in her eyes at this point.

"...we hit the point of no return. He was so sickly and pale. I was going to lose him... I couldn't tell him that. But I think he knew it too. Just a few days before his passing, he told me that it's okay, that he enjoyed the time he spent with everybody... I just..."

The dam burst.

How embarrassing of me, crying in front of a group of strangers in public...

She felt a hand on her shoulder.

"You're a really brave woman, having to deal with such a blow like this. It's no wonder you're so passionate about this cause." The white-haired gentleman spoke.

Trying to calm herself down, she replied: "I... I just didn't want others to... to go through the same horror and anguish that I did. That kind of pain... shouldn't be so widespread."

A few of the listeners in the growing group nodded in agreement.

The white-haired man reached into his pocket.

"You totally deserve more than what I just gave you. Here are a few more notes to make up for it!"

Rose was astonished! But what happened afterwards was just as amazing.

"I'll chip in as well!"

"Me too!"

"As will I."

One by one, all of those who stayed to listen to her story gathered closer, depositing coins and bills into the metal can, which got significantly heavier. The sound of rustling bills and clinking coins were just music to her ears!

And as quickly as the mass of people accumulated, they dispersed and resumed their activities. Except for the white-haired man who still lingered around...

"Excuse me, sir...?"

"Yes, Rose?"

"I really can't thank you enough. You've helped me by attracting all those donations just now!"

The man shook his head. "It was more of your doing. You bravely retold your personal experience, and let them know the ordeal that both the victim and the peers face. You gave them a compelling reason to help you out."

"Still, if you weren't here, I wouldn't have shared my story. You were the first one to actually show so much concern to me! I must repay you somehow!"

"Well... I do have a Christmas night party at my place. I believe I have room for one more. Would you like to come? It'd be a pleasure for others to meet you as well."

"Oh! That's a really nice offer, but... it doesn't really seem like I'll be giving back anything to you..."

The man chuckled. "If it bothers your conscience, then you may bring presents if you like. But it's also okay if you don't want to come, I don't want to force your hand."

"...then alright. I'll find a gift for you as my token of appreciation!"

"Very well..." He took out a piece of paper and scribbled on it. "This is my name and my address."

"Okay... so you're Dominic?"

"Yup. It was such a pleasure chancing upon you today!"

"Same to you! Merry Christmas!"

As Rose watched Dominic walk off into the street, she couldn't help but smile again.

There really are still saints on this Earth after all...