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Thérèse Perrault - Dear Santa

In December 1944, Thérèse Perrault was nine years old, and although her belief in Santa Claus was not as strong as before, she still sent him several letters all the same. But she didn't ask for gifts; she asked that he give the doll she might have received to a little girl in war-torn Europe. All she really wanted was for Santa to send news of her big brother Richard, who had gone to the front. It had been months since her family had received his last letter . . .

Arthabaska, Quebec
Monday, December 25, 1944

Dear Santa,

Before going to Midnight Mass tonight, my parents stopped to visit our neighbours, the Maheu family. Mom had made meat pies and regular pies for them. I saw the pain on their faces. They were wearing black armbands to show they were in mourning. Santa Claus, why is there so much misery in the world?

When we got to Saint-Christophe church, I prayed with all my might until my knees were sore and my hands hurt from squeezing them so tight. I was hoping that my prayers would go so high up in the sky that they would reach Baby Jesus. On this holy night, I was hoping for a miracle.

At the end of the celebration, the parishioners were invited to exchange wishes of peace, love, health and prosperity. We left the church quickly. It was hard enough as it was. But there was also another mass waiting for us at home. It was being broadcasted on national radio, from London, England.

When we turned on the radio, a man was signing "Silent Night" in French. He was just about finished …

When he was done, the announcer spoke in English, and my father translated as best as he could. We heard words like "military," "Chaudière regiment," "O Holy Night," and then I heard the most beautiful voice in the world …

It was Richard who was singing! My parents didn’t believe me right away, but quickly realized I was right. It was him! IT WAS REALLY HIM!!!

We all fell silent so we could listen to the rest of the Christmas carol. "O Holy Night" never sounded so beautiful to us as that night when we heard Richard sing it across the airwaves.

Excerpt from the book Lettres de décembre 1944, by Alain M. Bergeron, Éditions Pierre Tisseyre, pages 41 to 49. Inspired by the true story of Armand Boily, soldier with the régiment de la Chaudière.

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