It was a real pleasure to meet up with Mike Bro again at the Cowichan District Hospital last week.
Bro is heart-transplant recipient who has been participating for the past three years in the annual Operation Popcorn that takes place during the holidays in hospitals across B.C.
Basically, Operation Popcorn is a way for people who have had organ transplants and their friends and families to say thank you with a gift of popcorn to the province’s health workers who helped them through the difficult process.
Bro, who is the father of seven children, was born with a congenital heart defect and had four open-heart surgeries to try to correct the problem over the years before he finally received a very successful heart transplant in Vancouver in 2010.
The joy of having their father still in their lives, especially during the Christmas season, was apparent on the faces of two of his children, teenage daughters Alecsa and Jordyn, who go to the hospital each year with Bro to thank staff and hand out popcorn.
You could easily tell how close Bro is with his children by the tender way they treated each other while visiting different sections of the hospital.
Family is important, particularly at this time of year, and this family has experience enough to know that each moment they can spend together is special and not to be wasted.
I also come from a large family of seven kids and my memories of Christmas time with my parents and siblings are among the best I have.
I was the youngest child and the standard Christmas morning practice was for us all to line up in the hallway outside the room where the Christmas tree was located before we were allowed to enter.
Being the youngest, I was put in the front of the pack which was a great place to be unless you’re the smallest of an excited and sugar-filled mob that are ready to run you over the minute the parents gave the signal to storm the Christmas tree.
The first few moments were always an exercise in self preservation for me, with the gifts left from Santa Claus a very secondary consideration.
These memories always fill the room with laughter every Christmas when I recount them for my siblings.
Christmas memories with the family were also held dear when I had to spend two of the festive seasons alone in Toronto many years ago.
I lived with a group of friends who typically went home for the holidays, but I had to work right through Christmas and didn’t have that option.
When I returned to our house after working on those two Christmas Days, I remember standing in the window staring out onto the street for no other reason than to just catch a glimpse of someone, and the television’s volume was on high in an effort to try and fool myself into thinking that I wasn’t all alone.
Those of my siblings who are in the vicinity still get together as much as we can during the holidays, although the loss of our father earlier this year and our eldest brother two years ago now casts a shadow over these gatherings.
But the memories live forever and, in the end, they are really all we have to cling to and cherish.
Merry Christmas Cowichan Valley, make sure you enjoy every moment of it.