Narrowing his eyes, the judge banged his gavel. “I sentence you to five years incarceration for involuntary manslaughter.”
Tammy spun around and locked eyes with her husband. After a moment, Sam fidgeted in his seat and looked down at the sleeping toddler cradled in his arms.
The policeman cuffed her hands as Tammy began sobbing. “No, you can’t take me away from my baby. She needs her mommy.”
Sam glanced at his parents, who where hugging him from both sides. He shook his head and shut his eyes, in an attempt to block out what just happened. “I can’t believe that the woman I loved, married, and had this beautiful child with would drive drunk and end up killing someone"
His voice started to crack as his tears plopped onto Maddy’s downy head. “I don’t think that I can ever forgive her, or love her again. Did you know she was on her way to pick up Maddy from the sitter’s when the accident happened? She could have killed our little girl!”
“Honey, you and Maddy can stay with us until you get back on your feet.” His mom stroked his hand.
“She sent you another letter.” Every day his mom would point to an envelope and Sam would step to the counter, pick it up and throw it in the trash.
When the phone rang, if the caller id indicated the call originated from Allenwood Women’s Prison, Sam refused to allow anyone to answer it.
Two weeks before Christmas, Sam had just laid Maddy down for a nap, when the doorbell rang. He rushed to the door, before they rang again and woke Maddy. Through the peephole, he could see a woman with a couple of kids holding packages.
Slowly he opened the door. “Can I help you?"
“Yes, are you Sam Cartwright?”
“Why, yes I am. Do I know you?”
“No.” She held out her hand. “I’m Emily Post and these are my children Adam and Beth. We’ve come to deliver some Christmas gifts for Maddy.”
Sam’s eyebrows raised, “Oh?”
“Actually, the gifts are from her mommy. We’re just playing Santa by delivering them. Can we set them down?” She looked beyond him to the table in the foyer.
He reluctantly motioned her in.
“We’re from the First Southern Baptist Church down the street. Each year we participate in ‘Angel Tree’, which distributes gifts to prisoner’s children for Christmas. This year, Maddy’s mom signed her up and we chose her name off the tree.” Before he could protest, she set the gifts on the table and turned to leave. “Merry Christmas, God bless!”
When Sam’s parents arrived home, he met them at the door. Gesturing to the gift-laden table, he glared at his mom and asked, “I suppose you had something to do with this?”
“Um, well, I guess I did.” She glanced at her husband for support. He simply nodded encouragingly for her to continue. “A month or so ago, Tammy called while you were at work. She told me about ‘Angel Tree’ and asked me to let them know what Maddy needed for Christmas. How could I say ‘no’ to a mother who wanted to send something special to her little girl?” She reached up and cupped Sam’s cheek. “I know, I still love my little boy and want to do nice things for him.”
“Jeez, Mom, how can I stay mad at you when you go and say stuff like that?” He ran his fingers through his dark wavy hair. “Okay, we’ll give Maddy the Christmas presents from her mom.”
“Okay, Sweetie. Can we go to First Southern Baptist’s candlelight service just to say thank you for their kindness?”
Sitting in the candlelight sanctuary, singing about “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” caused Sam to feel anything but peace, especially when he remembered his unforgiving attitude toward Tammy.
On Christmas morning, much like Scrooge, Sam resolved to act differently. While chattering to Maddy about her mom, he drove to the prison. Soon they were all sitting on the floor of the visitation room.
Maddy hid her face in Sam’s shoulder, but then turned and smiled brilliantly. “Mum mas.”
“You don’t know what this means to me, Sam.” Tammy met his gaze with glistening eyes while reaching to hug Maddy to her.
“I thought it was time to give a little forgiveness to the woman I love.” He gently pulled her head toward him and kissed her forehead.
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