This morning as Ron lay in bed and slowly open his eyes to the sunlight chasing the darkness away, it was then, he realized just how alone he was since Emily left. He stumbled out of bed and walked over to the bedroom window. Snow had fallen during the night in this little community in Bladen County called White Oak, and a white Christmas was certain.
Emily once lived in Maine and snow was a common event for her. She often talked about the fun she had during winter with her family. From snowmobiling to ice fishing, she never let a little snow slow her down.
Walking over to the closet, Ron stood starring at the clothes in a neat row. Just the way Emily always made sure he arranged them. Until she came into Ron’s life, his clothes were most often arranged by gravity. Getting dressed seems to be a task for him now that he no longer has Emily in his life. Ron walked into the kitchen and could not help but notice the calendar on the wall, which quickly reminded him today was his birthday. He recalled the birthday parties his family gave him. With friends surrounding Ron, his mother placed the cake in front of him and told Ron to make a wish. Then blow out the candles if he wanted it to come true. How he met Emily turned out to be the best day ever. His sister asked Ron to double date with her. Until then, Ron’s time was pretty much confined to farm work. When they arrived, Ron walked to the car not knowing what to expect. By the end of the night Emily had smitten his heart.
Emily was full of surprises. Last year, she volunteered them to be Salvation Army bell-ringers.
What Ron through was going to be awful turned out to be a rewarding experience. To Emily, Christmas was the perfect time to help all children receive the gift of joy on Christmas morning. So they sat about making memories for what both thought would be a lifetime of love, a family, and adventures. But it was not to be. A wicked cell in her body had other plans. Ron remembered when Emily said, “ cancer.”
Later he learned Emily had concealed her cancer from him due to it being so advance. Those were the weeks they were bell-ringers. The funds raised helped support addiction programs, feed and shelter the homeless. When he did find out, the emotions he experienced were almost too hard to bear.
But Ron felt he was selfish. It was Emily who would endure the pain of this terrible disease. His true love had to travel down the pathway of life where so many unsung heroes of cancer have to go. So many times Ron wanted to ask God, why Emily?
But he never did. Perhaps it was the strong faith Emily had God would take care of her, no matter what the future held. And if not, as she often said, “I’m safe in his arms.” Pulling out a chair, Ron lay his head down on the kitchen table. His eyes felt heavy.
As sleep came over him, he thought, if I had a birthday wish, it would be to “wish my Emily could come back to me.” Ron could almost smell the cake Emily would bake for his birthday. Emily, just like his mother, also made sure the candles were lit. Then, moving oh so close, she would say, “now Ronnie, make a wish but don’t tell me, or it won’t come true.” The smell of the cake became even stronger.
A voice he knew so well entered the deep depths of his mind. It was Emily’s voice! Ron slowly raised his head and there she was, walking towards him with a cake just taken out of the oven.“ Will you move so I can place the cake on the table,” Emily said, adding, “You have been asleep since I put this cake in the oven.”
“Asleep,” Ron replied. “Yes, you have,” she said. Then added, “when I came in here to take the cake out of the oven, you were mumbling something about a wish.“ Anyway she said, “we have to be at the homeless shelter at noon today to help serve Christmas lunch to some very special people.”
“So move,” she said with a voice of authority.
Ron stood up as Emily placed the cake on the table. Then, taking her in my arms, he gave her a big hug and a kiss. “What was that all about,” she said? “Oh its nothing,” he replied. Then Emily said, “Why don’t you go finish wrapping the Christmas presents we have for the children of the homeless who will be at the shelter. “Fine,” Ron said while walking towards the gifts in the living room.
Then stopped, looked at Emily and though how he could hardly wait until tonight when his birthday cake is brightly lit. Then, he will wish a cure for cancer is soon discovered so people now, and in the future, can celebrate cancer free birthdays and Christmases with the “Emily” in their life.
Randy Knight is a native of White Oak now living in Cumberland County with his wife Joyce, a native of Elizabethtown.