Chance visit from Santa restores spirit of Christmas

By Cecilia James as told to Coleen Ogden

Cecilia James, age 6, during the first Christmas after her mother died.

The year 1989, when I was 6 years old, was very hard for me. On January 31,1989, my mother,
Earlene Beck, passed away from natural causes at the age of 37. My dad couldn’t take care of me full-
time, so, I moved in with my Grandma KarmaLee and Grandpa Duane Beck from Centerfield, and I
started a new life.

When Christmas rolled around in December, I was still a very broken little girl who missed her
mother more than anything in the world. All I wanted for Christmas was my mom back, and I was angry
at everyone, including Santa, for not bringing her back to me.

On Christmas Eve as I was getting ready for bed, we heard a knock on the door. Little did I know
it would change my life forever and would restore the magic of Christmas to my heart. My grandma ,
“Meme” as we called her, opened the door and to my surprise, there stood Santa Claus as real as he
could be.

He handed me a candy cane and told me he knew I was missing my mom, and if it were possible,
he would do anything to bring my mom back and give her to me for Christmas, but that was just
something he couldn’t do.

Santa was so loving and gentle; I could feel the absolute love radiating from him. He promised
me my mom would be with me even though I could not see her, and that if I paid close attention, I
would always be able to feel her with me. Then he said that I needed to go to bed so he could do his
magic and bring me my presents. Then he was gone. That short encounter with Santa restored a little
girl’s faith in Christmas, and because of it, I believed in Santa Claus well into my teens.

But that’s not the end of my story, because when I was an adult, my grandma told me the Santa
Claus who had visited me had had gotten lost going to a Christmas party that year and ended up at the
wrong house. My grandma had seen a car out front and went outside to see if the people needed help.
When she saw that it was Santa, she asked him if he would come in and visit with her little broken-
hearted granddaughter who was missing her mother and give her some words of Christmas

He did just that, and so much more, with one simple visit. So, I know he didn’t end up at the
wrong house after all. Angels sent him to me.

That was 33 years ago, and my story still doesn’t end there. In high school, I met Clint James,
and we were married in 2006. We have four children, KaraLee, 15; Kembree, 10; Kixten, 7; and Kaylene,

Clint’s father, Kirk James, my father-in-law and my children’s grandpa, was that very Santa that
night, and we share a very special bond because he took a few minutes to share his heart with a little girl
who was missing her mother. He told me later that night was very special for him as well, and when he
left me to get back in his car, he was overwhelmed with tears and the spirit of Christmas.

I’m grateful for a very special grandma and second mom, who could see my pain and thought
enough of me to have Santa pay me a special visit. My grandparents have both passed away now, and
Clint and I live in their home, the same home where I experienced my most memorable Christmas.

Cecilia James and her family today. From left, Cecilia holding her youngest child,
Kaylene, 1; KaraLee, 15; Kixten 7: husband Clint; and Kembree, 10.