Joy From Sorrow

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 25, 2005

“Happy Holidays!” the cheerful Walmart greeter hollered as I breezed through the automatic doors, an elf hat perched merrily on his head. The store was decked out for the season: red garlands strung through the aisles, displays of twinkling lights and plastic Santas, and directly in front of the entrance, a big, tall fir tree, its branches hung with colorful ornaments.

Christmas was approaching rapidly, and all the shoppers around me seemed to be in the spirit. I wished I could be too, but my gift list was one name shorter than it should have been. Dad was gone, and that was all I could think about.

After his doctor diagnosed him with leukemia at the age of 69, he refused to get down. Up until he took his final breaths, he kept smiling, trying to keep us upbeat. He knew he was going to a better place, he said, though he couldn’t imagine any place better than here with us.

“Preston is the happiest person I know,” Dad’s friends often said, and they were right. I couldn’t remember a time when there wasn’t a smile on his face. It came from his generous and giving spirit–he got joy out of helping others, even if he sacrificed some things himself. He had a deep faith in God, and believed the best about people.

Pushing my shopping cart past the greeter and looking down at my list, it was all I could do to keep my composure. I always loved buying gifts for Dad. He got so excited at the shirt or shoes I’d picked out for him. I’d never have that joy again.

I paused in front of the Christmas tree. White tags hung from the branches in between the ornaments. One of those “Angel Trees,” I thought. Shoppers could choose a tag and buy a gift for a child of an inmate, something like that. I started to walk on.

The sign in front caught my eye. “Be a Santa for a Senior.” Huh? I’d never heard of that program. I stopped. Before I knew what I was doing, I reached out and grabbed a tag:

Gift: shirt, size XL; pants, waist 42; and shoes or socks, size 12 – 12 ½.

Senior name: Preston.

I whipped my cart around and headed to Men’s Clothing. I had a gift to buy, for a senior with the same name as my dad–and the same size too!

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