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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)

By James Dick


Margie and Michael Mackenzie were silent and numb as they drove home from the doctor’s office. Margie had just learned that her cancer was active again and spreading rapidly. She only had about a month to live.

She turned to her husband with a smile on her face but sadness in her eyes and said, “You know, Michael, I have had a good long life and a loving husband. But there’s one simple thing I want to do.”

Through teary eyes Michael replied, “You know I’ll do anything for you, Margie.”

“Get Mindy and Suzie to come spend a long Thansgiving holiday with us. Since I don’t have a lot of time, let’s combine Thanksgiving and Christmas into a special occasion. That would be wonderful. I want to see people happy, not sad when they remember me.”

So, it was settled. Daughter Mindy and granddaughter Suzie would come to spend a special holiday with Grandma and Grandpa.

Despite her illness, Margie worried constantly about Mindy and Suzie. Mindy’s husband, Jack, had been killed in Afghanistan nearly a year ago and Mindy wasn’t adjusting well. Suzie actually handled things better but Margie knew how much she, too, missed her dad.

With little time to prepare, Margie made plans and Jack carried them out. There was Christmas shopping to do and special groceries to buy. They even had to dig the old artificial Christmas tree out of “moth balls” since the live ones weren’t available yet. The planning was good for Margie and the hustle and bustle cheered her immensely.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Mindy and Suzie arrived. As they pulled up to the comfortable older home, they were amazed by the Christmas lights decking the front porch and the big laughing Santa at the base of the steps. It really was going to be Christmas for Thanksgiving.

As they approached the door, they were surprised to see Grandpa and Grandma greet them dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. There were big hugs and “ho ho ho’s” to go around.

True to the Christmas spirit, the living room was adorned with a large artificial tree with lights and ornaments and stockings hanging from the fireplace mantle. And beautiful candles were aglow everywhere while Christmas carols played softly in the background. Wrapped presents abounded.

Thanksgiving wasn’t forgotten either. The dining room sported a festive autumn tablecloth with a horn of plenty centerpiece. There was even a large Hallmark paper turkey on the sideboard with feathers spread wide.

Margie began to tire and sat down. She told everyone that the big meal was tomorrow but she wanted to show things off for their arrival. They would eat a simple dinner in the kitchen tonight and tomorrow would be one of several big days.

That night after supper, Margie asked the family to join her in the living room. She wanted to talk with them.

“I’m so glad you’re here. Grandpa and I have some special things planned for the next few days and I want everyone to be happy, not sad. I want to tell you something that I hope you will keep with you for the rest of your life. It is important to know.

“Life is nothing more than a series of steps. It begins with birth, follows with growing up, and leads, hopefully, to marriage and creation of a new family. Then life is devoted to raising children and preparing them for adulthood and, afterward, comes old age. It happens to each of us, whether we like it or not, so it is important to understand it and accept it.

“The final step of life is death, and it’s the one we don’t like to think about or talk about. Unfortunately, it will soon be my time to die, and I wanted the family together to celebrate our love while I am still here. Let’s have fun.

“So this is the only mention of death while you’re here. This is a time for fun, for thanksgiving, and for Santa. Know that I am fine, I have accepted my fate, and I will soon be going to Jesus to start another life, an eternal life. I’ll wait for you there.

“Be happy, thankful and always remember that God is responsible for giving each of us the gift of life.”

And with that, she gave everyone a hug and kiss and the weeklong party began. They ate, sang, danced and loved one another. What a way to be remembered.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 12/08/12
You've filled your story with a lot of emotion (sorrow, joy, love). -- Which is just like life. I very much enjoyed reading about Mrs. MacKenzie. She could teach us all. :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/11/12
This is a heart-warming story of a woman who had no doubt where she would go once she died. Your message is one every single person can relate to and many handle it in different ways. I liked the way your MC handled it.

I noticed you had a couple of POV shifts. Since Margie is the MC, the reader can only know what she sees, thinks, feels. So when you talk about the daughter and granddaughter feeling surprise or in this line: they were amazed by the Christmas lights
you are peeking into their heads. Instead show what Margie may have seen as she was peeking out of the window and saw Mindy stop as her jaw dropped while the twinkling lights reflected on her smile or Suzie squeals and points her fingers at the lights. By doing this, not only do you avoid the POV shift, but you end up showing the reader instead of telling.

I think this is a great take on the topic. I've never quite thought of life as being a series of steps but they definitely are. Even for those strong in their faith , death can be scary. Yet you showed how with a lot of faith and love, the MC is able to celebrate her life with her family and not allow them to mourn too much. Beautiful storytelling.
C D Swanson 12/11/12
Oh, this touched my heart so deeply. What a marvelous story. I really enjoyed it.
God bless~