I had a job being Santa one year. It was at a local community center. Most of the children got on my lap and asked for the latest doll that was advertised on TV. I would sneak a look at their parent to see if buying that was even remotely possible before I would reassure them that it just might happen. If I saw a worried look on the face of the adult who brought them there, I would tell the child that Santa had to buy a lot of toys and dolls for lots of children and sometimes he didn’t have enough even if they had been very good all year.
One afternoon, a little girl shyly got up on my lap and looked directly at me, how children do, with her bright blue and trusting eyes. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, after we had gone through the preliminary questions about being good, she simply said, “I want a picture of my brother.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that and glanced over at her mother who looked distraught.
“You want a picture of your brother? Is that all?”
She nodded her head in agreement, looking deeply into my eyes with total faith that I would comply.
I couldn’t help but ask her, “Where is your brother?”
“He’s in heaven.”
I looked over at her mother whose head was bowed. What happened next was a spur of the moment discussion about death. I owed it to the little girl and to her mother. I’m not totally sure what I said, but whatever it was seemed to satisfy the little girl. She hopped off my knee and took her mother’s hand. The mother smiled at her little girl and then lifted her head until our eyes met. There was no mistaking that.