“I don’t know what I did to deserve this as a gift,” she says in her seat beside the hospital bed. She presses his hand into hers, though the bony fingers remain limp in her grip. A life, faint and fading.

A life is ending.

She had never felt more scared than when she realized she was sitting in the room where her husband would die. She would have to say goodbye to him alone.

“On Christmas, of all days.”

Two floors above, another woman wipes a tear from the corner of her eye. “A gift,” she whispers. “Such a beautiful gift. And on Christmas of all days.”

She had welcomed him into the world alone, never before feeling as relieved as she did when her son was born and she held him for the first time.

A life is beginning. A life, so fragile, so hopeful.

She cradles his head to her chest, lets tiny fingers grip her thumb. “I don’t know what I did to deserve this as a gift.”

Two floors below, a woman says goodbye to the love of her life with tears in her eyes. “A gift,” she whispers. “You were such a beautiful gift.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Photo by Sandy Torchon from Pexels


Shauna had always hated working holidays at the hospital, but Christmas during a pandemic made everything worse. Usually patients could at least have visitors; they could celebrate in some small way, letting their ailments fade into the background, but this year the loneliness and misery of the hospital were harder to escape.

She found her next patient standing up in the room and looking out the window. “It’s nice to see you up on your feet,” Shauna said in her nurse voice, more upbeat than she felt.

“I wanted to watch the angels,” the patient, an elderly woman with bad lungs, replied.

Shauna was grateful for the N95 and face shield which masked her cynical expression. Great, she thought, now she’s showing signs of dementia too. “Let’s get you back into bed,” she offered, not wanting to stay late on Christmas documenting about a patient fall.

“Just a minute longer,” the patient answered as Shauna stepped up beside her. After a moment, Shauna finally followed the woman’s gaze out into the night’s darkness. From their fourth floor vantage, they could look down on city streets resplendent with twinkling Christmas lights. “Beautiful, aren’t they?” the patient whispered. “Joy to the world.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox