THE CHRISTMAS COAL

01/09/15

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This is a story about a lump of coal, a little long but well worth the time to read it

One of Jarrett's favorite things to do was  to go to Strasburg Railroad in Pa. This Year for his birthday he did not want a birthday party, he wanted to make one last trip to Strasburg Railroad. He loved to visit the Thomas the Tank Engine store. It was his favorite thing to do up there. This particular visit he had something else in mind that only he knew about. It was December 19th 2004. On this particular trip he wanted his aunt, uncle and his twin cousins to go with him. The trip started out like any other trip. It was a great ride with fun conversation on the way up about what we were going to do once we got there. He was so excited. We got there and the first thing we did was head to the Thomas Gift Shop. We spent a good while in there. As always Jarrett got whatever he asked for. He and I stood at the display of Thomas trains and he would point out what he wanted and I would put them into Jarrett's shopping basket. We had a great time. Mom was busy shopping for Xmas gifts but Jarrett and I were looking for one thing, THOMAS STUFF. After spending some time in the store we left and went to take the stuff he bought to the car. Looking back now, I only wish that we could have spent eternity in that store. What I would not give for one more visit with him. Anyway, on the way back from the car he was very excited and anxious about something and I could not figure out what it was until we heard the sound of a train whistle. Strasburg has an old fashioned steam engine that used coal as its fuel source. A good old fashioned steam locomotive. We had taken a ride on the locomotive in the past, we even had lunch on it as well. On this particular day he did not have an interest in riding the train but he could not wait until it came back into the station. It was just he and I waiting for the train. The sound of the horn signaled its approach. The train pulled into the station. A black beauty spewing pillars of beautiful smoke from the bowels of its coal fired furnace. I believe it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, by the look in Jarrett's eyes I could see that he too felt the same way. The massive locomotive came to an stop as gently as a feather landing on your hand. I remember thinking how graceful it seemed. The engineer saw Jarrett in his wheelchair and flashed a great big smile towards him. Jarrett, unable to speak motioned to me that he wanted something. I asked him what he wanted and he pointed up to the engineer on the train. The engineer asked Jarrett what he wanted and I told the engineer that I was not sure. Jarrett continued to point then it dawned on me what he wanted. He wanted a piece of real coal from the coal tender attached to the locomotive. When I asked Jarrett if that is what he wanted his face lit up like you would not believe. The life and passion in his face at that moment is something I will forever cherish. The engineer asked me again if I knew what he wanted, this time I told him that indeed I did. I told him that Jarrett wanted a piece of coal. The engineer told us that after the crowd thinned out a little bit he would give Jarrett a piece of coal. He explained that when the train first pulls into the station, all the kids and adults too come up to the train. But the crowd disperses rapidly and when it does he will give Jarrett a piece of coal. It was the longest 5 minutes of Jarrett's life I think, lol. The crowd went away and the engineer reached down and grabbed a piece of coal about half the size of a baseball and handed it to Jarrett. It was as black as you have ever seen, it was beautiful. I remember thinking that a lump of coal over time and pressure become a diamond but at this point in time, that lump of coal was more valuable that any diamond would ever be to me.  You can not imagine the smile on the childs face. His cheeks were flushed with color and his beautiful green eyes actually appeared to twinkle. Seeing the look on his face, I think that the engineer actually started to get choked up. Just then the departure whistle blew and the train was off to another adventure. Jarrett could not take his eyes off of the coal. He made me take him to the car where we wrapped the piece of coal in a white towel and put it into the trunk of the car. I had no idea what his intentions were with this black beauty. We would find out soon enough. After we put the coal into the trunk Jarrett wanted to leave to go home. At this point only he and I knew the coal was there. On the way home we were having normal conversation in the car and all the while Jarrett had a devilish grin on his face. A beautiful devilish smile. The story of the lump of coal is about to unfold.

We finally got home, it must have seemed like an eternity for Jarrett. We got out of the car  got the coal from the trunk and entered into the house. We were not even 5 feet inside the door when Jarrett made me stop at the railing where the empty Christmas stockings were hung. He would not allow me to take off his hat or coat. He motioned to me that he wanted his brothers stocking. I took the stocking off of the railing and he looked inside at its emptiness and started to smile, he dropped the lump of coal into the stocking and made me put it back onto the railing before anyone else had seen what he had done.

Christmas morning came and when it came time to open the stockings everyone's stocking including the puppy's was overflowing with stuff, except for one that is, Joe's stocking was just about empty. Joe had no idea what was happening. The look on his face was one of wonder. Jarrett started to laugh almost uncontrollably, me too I might add. When Joe looked into the stocking and saw nothing but that lump of coal, he knew immediately by Jarrett's reaction that he had put it there. Joe did not care, seeing Jarrett smile from this practical joke brought us all to tears with laughter. What a sense of humor her possessed.

Right after Christmas Jarrett's health started deteriorating pretty rapidly, on Jan 9th Jarrett passed away after his long and courageous battle with cancer. When it came time to pack away the Christmas decorations, that stocking with the coal was packed away just as Jarrett had meant it to be. That stocking will FOREVER hold the most beautiful piece of black matter that we will ever see.

 

 

 

 

     

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