Christmas at the A&W

Navigating the holidays can be tricky.

Although they are supposed to be peaceful, calm and joyful, this is not always the case.

Backtrack to Christmas Day.

Suddenly, the door of the downtown A&W opened and a man in his mid-thirties walked into the establishment. He ordered lunch and sat down with his ticket at a table next to that of an older woman, the only other patron.

‘It’s a good thing this place is open today!’ he exclaimed smiling broadly.

‘Yes,’ the woman replied with a smile, happy to speak to someone.

‘I’m from up north and drove to Toronto to deliver some Christmas gifts to a family. The father passed away suddenly.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear this.’

‘Yes, it was a freak accident. He was electrocuted a week ago while installing a new electrical appliance.’

‘How awful! Just before Christmas.’

A voice rings out on the speaker, ‘John. Your order is ready.’

John got up, claimed his lunch and came back. Unwrapping his burger, he said, ‘Ted and I were close friends and I wanted to surprise the family.’

‘That’s so kind of you. It must be devastating for his wife.’

‘It is. She’s a stay-at-home mom and Ted’s death is a real game changer.’

‘Yes,’ Samantha said compassionately.

‘What brings you out to the A&W on Christmas?’ John asked.

‘All my family has passed on and I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone in the apartment, so I came here.’

‘That’s tough,’ said John. ‘I don’t have family either. Ted and his family were like family to me … and now that he’s gone …’ John looked down, clearly grieved about his friend’s sudden death and at a loss for words.

Samantha, who thought her situation was bad, wondered about the woman who lost her husband over the holidays. How could God allow something like this to happen? How would she now support her children?

As if John read her mind, he said, ‘Sometimes things happen for reasons that we can’t begin to understand. I believe that God had a plan for Ted in the next life and took him. What do you think?’

For a moment, Samantha was taken aback by such frankness and serendipity. ‘I attend a local Anglican church—where I’ve been playing the organ for years—but I still wonder how God allows some things to happen…,’ Samantha sighed, surprised that she was speaking to a complete stranger, yet glad to have someone to talk to on Christmas Day and finding herself drawn into his story. She fiddled with her scarf in anticipation of what John would say next.

‘I know what you mean, but I just can’t believe that things end here, on this earth. There must be something more. The day after he died—thought I was losing my mind—but I saw Ted’s face, just like I knew him when he was alive except that he was glowing, beaming with joy, saying, “John, tell Susan that I’m alright and that I love her.” That’s why I decided to travel to Toronto, to tell her. Do you think she’ll believe me?’

‘When my mother died,’ Samantha chose her words carefully, ‘I also felt her presence. It was as if she were encouraging me…from the other side.’ Samantha looked into John’s scintillating blue eyes as she said this.

‘I’m sure glad to hear this ma’am. It must happen a lot more than people let on.’

‘Yes, I suppose.’ Samantha appeared lost in thought. It was turning out to be a more interesting Christmas than she had anticipated.

John had finished eating his lunch and was getting ready to go.

‘It was nice meeting you, ma’am. Merry Christmas.’

‘Merry Christmas to you, too, and …’ Samantha hesitated before saying more.

‘Yes?’

‘And please tell Susan that Samantha is praying for her and her children.’

‘Thank you Samantha. I sure will.’

The stranger got up and, as he walked out the door, Samantha thought that she was losing her mind because she saw a sudden flash of light as the man evaporated in thin air!

Samantha turned to the sole employee behind the counter, a teenager, and asked, ‘Did you see that?’

The employee with a glazed, shell-shocked look on her acned face, said ‘Yes … Whaaaaat the…? What just happened?’

Samantha wondered, too, and remembered the Bible verse, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ (Hebrews 13:2, ESV)