The littlest angel and his small wooden box

Brenda tells a heart-wrenching story from a Christmas past of a little boy she taught.

I had a twinge! Nothing to get excited about but a twinge nonetheless. The twinge was just a little Christmas quiver.

What brought it about you ask? Calls and email notes from friends from far away and long ago. My first donation stuffed into a Salvation Army Kettle. I had a little Christmas spirit happening.

My twinge has faded away sadly. I talked to old friends who have lost a special person in their life. Others battle with illness in another or themselves. My brother just called to tell me a cousin younger than I am passed away. It’s too much I tell you. To add to all this I have a little dog who staggers about on his last legs. I thought today would be his exit day but I said to him, “Not today Tuffy, not today.”

As I pondered the sadness in the world I think it is maybe time to tell you the story of the little Grade 1 pupil from long ago who taught me all about living life

The Littlest Angel

As another Christmas approaches we all seem to have memories which are more vivid the further back we go. Everyone is able to recall a time in the past when the festive season seemed much better or more meaningful than it is today. Often that is the case.

I have been most fortunate to have many Christmas seasons worth remembering. I can remember those when need be, but the time I recall more than any other was the winter I taught in a small country school on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

I had three grades in my class. Three grades of little people beaming with desire to learn all they could. One little chap in Grade 1 wanted to learn more than all the others. His round puffy face would smile up at me, reminding me over and over again that he would soon leave us. His small body harboured a terrible disease — leukemia. More often than not he would take his schooling in the hospital in Vancouver as he would once more bravely submit to another treatment.

We were all so pleased to have that little guy with us that special Christmas so long ago. We decorated our classroom, practised for the concert and coloured many pictures of Santa, angels and snowmen. We read Christmas stories. Some of the older children wrote good stories of their own.

On the day before the Christmas holiday would send us all home for three weeks, I read a new story to the class. It was about The Littlest Angel. This little angel had an awful time in heaven. He could not adjust to the routine. He was always in trouble, bumping into angels, tripping over clouds or dropping his halo. Nothing seemed to make his time any easier until one celestial day an archangel suggested the little angel return to Earth to retrieve some items from home. Just a few things to remind him of his past time.

As I read the story a silence fell over the children as they became more involved in the plight of the angel. In hushed voices we discussed the story, closing the page on another day at school.

The next day during our show-and-tell time, the little boy with leukemia asked if he could share something with the class. He sat in front of us on the old worn carpet with a small wooden box. His balding head bent over the box as he removed each item with care.

This is my first tooth, this is a ribbon from my sister’s hair and this is my puppy’s collar. My dad gave me this key. Mom said this rabbit’s foot will give me good luck!

Even before he told me the purpose of the box, we knew. Shiny tears went dot-to-dot down the freckled faces of the children.

I have all these things so when I go to heaven I won’t be too scared. Maybe you guys could make a picture for me to take so I will remember.

The rest of the day was spent doing just that. All of us made a picture, folded it carefully, placing it the wooden box.

The day ended with each child giving the little boy a big hug, getting a bright smile in return. I went home with a memory of a little boy who fought his disease and would one day accept his destiny.

The Christmas holidays came to a close and we all returned to our class — except the little boy. He died that Christmas in a hospital away from home clutching the wooden box which held his hopes and memories and ours. I have never forgotten that Christmas nor have I forgotten the little boy who in his short life gave so much.

A sad story I know, but it does put things in perspective.

You can call 250-846-5095 or just email your thoughts to mallory@bulkley.net.

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