Roy Exum: Christmas Day, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In my list of Christmas Eve wishes I made a mistake, one that foolish writers sometimes do when they try to boil a big story down to just a paragraph. It was an item about a lady in Des Moines who wrote a letter to a radio station about a month before she died in fall of 2011 of ovarian cancer. But she didn’t mail it. An anonymous friend held the letter until just this month after receiving carefully thought-out instructions.

What soon unfolded is one of the most wonderful Christmas stories I can ever remember so today, as the spirit of a babe in a manger fills our hearts, allow me to revisit the story of Brenda Schmitz and let you enjoy the letter the courageous 46-year-old wrote of behalf of those she so dearly loved and so sadly left behind.

For about 20 years a popular radio station in Des Moines, KSTZ “Star” 102.5 FM, has thrilled listeners with a Christmas Wish program, where wishes are read on the air and a host of benefactors help the station make some of them come true. “About a week and a half ago we got her letter in the mail, station manager Scott Allen told the Des Moines Register, “and … we’ve never received a wish like this, ever.”

You see, as Brenda lay dying, she made her husband promise he would fall in love again, this so their four boys would have a real family, and so her husband would have a full and wonderful life. When Brenda married David he had three sons from a previous marriage and together they had another, Max, before she died on Sept. 27, 2011, and now her husband has a new fiancée, Jayne, who has two children of her own.

You must understand. The anonymous confederate had been told to hold Brenda’s wish request to the radio station until David was either engaged or married. This December – after two Christmases have passed – Brenda’s wish finally went into play. Here, in her own words, is her request:

* * *

August 3, 2011

Hello, my name is Brenda Schmitz. When you are in receipt of this letter I will have already lost my battle to ovarian cancer. I am writing this letter to have sent to you by a dear friend who has instructions to do so when it was the time. I had to type this because I can barely write anymore because of my shakiness. I told (my friend) that once my loving husband had moved on in his life and met someone to share his life with again to mail this letter to all of you at the (radio) station.

I always enjoyed through the years the Christmas wish you all put on. It is a tremendous and thoughtful deal you do for people that truly exemplifies what Christmas is all about. As I was thinking about my last months on this earth I told David my wishes after I was gone that I believe he followed through with the attitude and courage I know he possesses. What a great husband and father he is.

I know all of this is extremely hard on him. He is making one of the best decisions from here on out for our family and ultimately finding a caring, compassionate loving woman in time to help raise the boys. She must be quite a lady and I wish I could have met to take on the task of raising a larger extended family with unwavering love and devotion and a huge heart. I also gave my friend some things to do and this letter sent to you is one of them when the time presented itself.

We have four boys, Carter, Josh, Justin and my lil’ Max. Max is the youngest at two years old. I was diagnosed right after his first birthday. No child as young as Max should lose his mother and it brings tears to my eyes now thinking of it. God, I will miss seeing him and the boys grow up to be fine young men. I have relayed to David to try and not let him forget me. He is such a bright, intelligent, beautiful boy. I will miss all my boys. My favorite has always been the one standing in front of me.

My reason for writing is this. I have a wish. I have a wish for David, the boys, and the woman and her family if she has kids. I want them to know I love them very much and that they always feel safe in a world of pain. I was hoping that one small act you all could do for me can change and help their lives forever and they know I am with them always.

First, for David’s new lifelong partner.  A day or better yet a weekend of pampering in all aspects of her life. Hair, makeup, body massage, clothes, shopping, spa or weekend getaway. Whatever. She deserves it. Being a step-mother to all those boys and especially giving lil’ Max a “mother’s love” that only she can give. Make her smile and know her efforts are truly appreciated by me. Perseverance will prevail. Thank you – I love you – whoever you are. Talk to me – you are heard.

(Second) For the family. A magical trip somewhere where they can all enjoy their company and companionship as a family and create those memories that will be with them forever.

Finally, the cancer doctors at Mercy Hospital and nurses of 8 South. Dr. Carlson, Dr. Turner, Deb Schnoor, Marie Rudolph. A night out full of drinks, food and fun for all they do every day for the cancer patients they encounter.

May God Bless and keep all of you safe out there. Thanks for this. When you wish upon a star … Brenda

* * *

“Everybody was in tears when we got the letter,” said the station manager. Soon they asked David to come to the station, the matter was too personal to discuss over the telephone, and he sat and wept when the letter was read to him.

"I was floored," David, 47, told the Los Angeles Times. “They said they had a letter for me.  I asked who it was from and they said it's personal and that I had to come down," he said. When he arrived and they told him the news, “Well, how did you get a letter from my deceased wife?"

“She was so selfless,” David said in a subsequent interview with ABC Nightly News, “She knew what I was going to go through, and the kids especially … but it’s not surprising,” he added. “We just know she’s there and that she’s part of what we’re doing.”

To another reporter he said, "Brenda was so loving and fantastic. For her to have such foresight and do this after the fact is incredible."

The radio station, and a mob of benefactors, arranged for Jayne to be “pampered” at a Disney World spa and that all eight members of the new family to be flown to Florida on an all-expenses-paid visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Accompanying the letter to the station was a sealed envelope to David’s fiancé. While the contents of the “mom-to-mom” note were not disclosed, David told reporters that Jayne held the letter to her chest and told him, “‘I just love this woman. I wish I could have met her.”

In another interview she added, “I think what touched me the most about her letter is that she told me that she loved me too,” she said. “That’s what was so amazing. She didn’t even know who I was going to be.”

There was a third letter, a private one for David. “I just don’t think the story is over,” he smiled. “I’m prepared now, let’s put it that way.”

Today David admits the whole thing “has to be one of those great Christmastime stories. “We feel very blessed," he smiled. "It might just be the best Christmas gift."

Now, that’s the whole story for a Christmas Day.

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