Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, The Christ.
One of my greatest gifts this year is the story of Vito. I think it’s some of Jesus’ finest work.
I first met Vito a couple of years ago at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. His family was valiantly fighting for his life in the face of a growing tumor in his small skull.
I had first heard of them through Facebook, when their story was discussed among the Hope Kids group. Stuck at the hospital, trapped by the needs of medical care and geography, they hadn’t had much of a Christmas Season.
Being a bit of a butt-insky, I contacted Hope Kids and asked if they would like a visit from Santa. My thought was mainly that the other kids in the family hadn’t had a chance to get away and do the annual picture pilgrimage.
They agreed, and so the visit was set for Christmas morning, after my usual rounds.
In preparation my wife and I gathered some small tokens to lighten the day. A bit of candy and such goes a long way toward breaking the spell of hospital life, and I hoped we could brighten their day.
Christmas morning I arrived at the hospital, and after the sheepdogs at the gate let me into the pasture, I went to see Vito and his family.
Mom was in the room with him, and I think perhaps, one of the other children. Dad was off with the rest of the crew, having a late morning at the residence where they were staying while Vito was being taken care of by the angelic staff. Yes, ANGELIC with all capitals. I have nothing but the highest praise for the people in those hospitals who take such good care of the children and families.
While we waited for the rest of the family to come, I took some time to pray. Not ashamed to say I got on my knees and prayed for Vito and his family. Felt good. Felt like there was a connection to God at that moment.
Soon all the rest showed up and we took the pictures, chatted about the usual things, and I was off to a shower and a nap – I’d worked the night before.
I thought of Vito over the next few months, and prayed when he came to mind. But if I’ve learned nothing else about pediatric cancer, it’s that it’s a vicious thing that defies odds and takes some before their time.
The next I heard of Vito was that he had passed away. I cried. No, I wept. There is a difference. These little people get into my heart and hold a place there forever.
I was overjoyed, and teared up again, when the video below came to my attention. If you click the link, you’ll find out why. I have nothing but nice things to say about the people at Tradition Companies. I won’t embarass them, but they do a lot of good work behind the scenes, and this is just one of their more public moments. The sponsorship, and kindness, are not one-time affairs: this is their way of life.
Fast forward to a Christmas party early in December. I knew I recognized the people coming toward my chair at the Hope Kids event, but I couldn’t place them: they hadn’t been at Cookies with Santa, our annual event. But that happens when you see tens of thousands of people over a few years.
The jig was up when they said, “Let’s get Vito in the picture.” From off-camera a hand reached out with a framed picture of my friend Vito. Mom and dad had brought all of their kids to see Santa. I made sure that I got a chance to have my picture taken with Vito. It was a great moment.
Mom and I once again chatted about Vito while the rest of the family was in the other room. I can only say that she was beaming talking about her son. What struck me most strongly was when she said, “Vito came to teach us something. He did an excellent job of that.”
Vito, you are indeed a great teacher. And I can’t wait to hang out with you in The Father’s presence. I suspect you still have things to teach me.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be back in the New Year. This week I’m taking some time to remember and celebrate the Vitos in my life.