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Light a Candle
By Amanda Berendt
Copyright December 2003

    It was Christmas Eve and the snow was falling silently, adding a sense of peace to the bustling city. The sidewalks were almost empty since many people were at home preparing for the holiday. A man in a long black coat with a white scarf was leading a young child in a red woolen coat down Church Street.
When they reached All Angel's Catholic Cathedral, the man lead the child up the stone steps and into the building. They stopped just inside the door and he knelt down to take off the hat and gloves, revealing locks of chestnut curls. Taking her hand again, they walked up the center aisle towards the altar. The gentle sounds of the choir warming up for the midnight service filled the stone building with a sense of peace.
They reached the altar and he genuflected before turning to approach the stand, which held the offering candles. He took one of the candles used to light the votives and toughed it to an unlit wick. After igniting the new flame, he closed his eyes and remembered...

Christmas eve, five years earlier.
    Natalie had been in labor for several hours. When the nurse came in to check on her progress, she remarked that they might have a Christmas baby. Both Nick and Natalie beamed. They had been looking forward to the birth of their first child, and it would make it even more special for the baby to be born on Christmas.
    Nick stayed in the room with her and held her hand through the difficult final stages of labor. Finally the child was born, and Natalie collapsed back onto the bed, exhausted. The doctor held the baby up and announced it was a perfectly healthy baby girl. Nick was elated. This beautiful new life was a part of Natalie and himself.    Glancing at the clock, he saw it was five minutes after midnight. Their baby girl was born on Christmas day.
    The happiness of the moment was short-lived. An alarm at Natalie's bedside was sounding - her blood pressure was dropping rapidly. The nurses took the baby away to the nursery so the doctor could concentrate on Natalie. She was bleeding internally, he said. Nick gave her a quick kiss on the forehead before she was whisked away to surgery. But the damage had already been done; she passed away thirty minutes into the operation.
    That afternoon, as Nick held his newborn daughter in his arms, whom he had named Noelle in honor of her mother and in honor of the day she was born, he thought it was as if a life had been traded for a life.
    Natalie had died to bring their baby girl into the world.

    I miss you; he thought looking at the flickering candle.
    Feeling a tug on his coat sleeve, he looked down to see Noelle. She was only five, but she was already a mirror image of her mother.
    "Can I light one too this year?" She asked.
    Nick smiled and nodded, trying to keep the tears at bay. He knelt own beside her and guided her hand to light the candle next to his.
    "Now close your eyes and think how much you love her." He whispered into her ear.
    Noelle scrunched her face as if deep in thought for a moment then opened her eyes and turned to Nick. "Now mommy knows we both remember her." She said with a smile.
    Nick hugged her tight, but just like any other child on Christmas Eve her thoughts did not dwell on sadness. She tried to squirm in his arms and said, "Daddy, we have to get home or Santa will skip our house."
    Reluctantly, Nick released her from his embrace and smiled. He pulled out her hat and gloves and helped her to put them on. Taking her small hand in his own, he led her back down the aisle and out into the falling snow.