PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) 3-and-a-half-year-old Scarlet was having a difficult Christmas season. In May, she lost her father, Derik, to a drug overdose. But Scarlet was cheered up, if only for one day, by a visit to Santa Claus himself.
Ask 3-year-old Scarlet what she loves, "I love my daddy."
And she's quick to mention her daddy, who last year, protected her from Santa Claus. According to Scarlet's grandmother Elizabeth, Scarlet has never much liked getting her picture taken with Santa, never managing as much as a smile during mall visits on pass Christmases. Last Sunday, Elizabeth took her granddaughter to see Santa at the Montgomery Mall.
"We are all trying to trudge through the holidays, even if I don't feel much like celebrating, because Scarlet deserves all the happiness the Christmas season brings," Elizabeth said.
They arrived at the mall, along with Scarlet's mother and aunt, and when it came time for Scarlet to sit on Santa's lap, something amazing happened.
"I whispered to him that Scarlet lost her daddy in May so I didn't know if she would sit or not. He looked at Scarlet and I could see tears welling up in his eyes," Elizabeth said. "He bent down to her level and told her that when he flew by heaven, he'd stop and give her daddy a message and a hug. Scarlet hugged him tight and said give that to my daddy and tell him I love and miss him so much. Santa looked her in the eyes and said, "I promise I will. I promise."
As they sat down, Santa said to Scarlet, "your daddy always liked to sit on this side of me" as he patted the couch.
Santa asked Elizabeth's other daughter if it was her dad who died, but she replied that it had been her brother. When Santa asked how Derik had died, she said it was a drug overdose.
"At this part of a normal story, in which we tell someone how Derik died, it usually gets incredibly quiet and I can see a gaze of disgust and judgement come over his/her face," Elizabeth said. "The stigma of addiction is real because I've witnessed myself many, many times. But this time, I didn't get the same response--instead Santa began to cry and had to wipe away his tears."
Santa, Elizabeth said, took a lot of time with Scarlet and asked what she wanted for Christmas, even as a very long line of children extended to the outside door.
"He gave Scarlet exactly what she needed- time and compassion," Elizabeth continued. "I know Santa is not real but if he was the Montgomery Mall Santa would be the real thing. Instead of judgment, we received empathy; instead of disgust we got compassion and a smile. This was the first picture ever in which Scarlet wasn't crying and was actually smiling."