After she lost her grandmother to cancer, Breanne Esplana wanted to do something special to cheer her mom up. And she had the perfect plan, but wanted to keep it secret. Then, two years later, everything was finally in place. And at Christmas in 2014 she was ready to reveal what she’d been hiding for so long.
Breanne and her brother John, along with their mom Margaret Sims, seem to be an incredibly close family. And their bond no doubt makes Christmas a particularly magical time of year. In fact, between them they had a little family tradition that they honored year after year at their home in Redwood City, California.
Each year, when Breanne and her family would decorate the Christmas tree, they’d do something special. It had become a tradition over the years to add a new ornament to their ever-growing collection. But not store-bought trinkets. These ones were all hand-crafted for a personal touch.
One year, though, things changed for Breanne’s family in a big way. It was around Christmas time in 2012 when her grandmother received some devastating news. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a shock for the whole family, but in particular for Breanne’s mom.
Despite putting up a brave fight, it was to no avail. Heartbreakingly, Breanne’s grandmother succumbed to her illness in July 2013 – just seven months after being diagnosed. But that wasn’t the only bad news to hit the family that year.
As if losing her grandmother wasn’t hard enough, Breanne and her family had already suffered another major blow in 2013. Just a few months earlier, in April her grandfather had passed away, too. That meant her mom lost both of her parents within the space of three short months.
Christmas 2013, then, was a particularly difficult time, especially for Breanne’s mom. Nonetheless, Breanne was determined to keep up their tradition of making personal tree adornments. And that year she had the opportunity to do something a bit special in honor of her grandparents.
Knowing how devastated her mom must have been, Breanne wanted to do something to at least try and make her smile again. So that Christmas, she decorated not one but two ornaments for their growing collection. These items contained a picture of each of her grandparents.
Heartbreak would come in a different form, however, in December 2014. There had been a break-in at the storage facility that the family used. Thieves had stolen their entire collection of tree ornaments and decorations. Years of keepsakes and mementos were gone.
The theft affected the whole family. These ornaments were very personal items, with a huge amount of sentimental value. Not only had the collection taken years to build, but also among them were decorations that had been given to Breanne’s mom by her own parents. And no doubt they were cherished even more after her mother and father passed away.
Breanne, however, hatched a plan. She got together with her brother, gathered as many friends and family as they could and set to work. After all, who else can you turn to in a crisis if not those closest to you? Together, they gathered supplies and collected photos to create a very special surprise for Breanne’s mom.
Then, around Christmas time, Breanne and her brother were ready with the secret that they’d been working on. In a YouTube video entitled “Christmas Surprise For Mom,” their mother is seen sitting in a chair by the Christmas tree and is under strict instructions not to open her eyes until she’s told to.
Despite their difficulties, though, mom has a big grin on her face. Presumably, she knows that something is about to happen – but what is it? When she opens her eyes, she’s met with a large, red, plastic storage box. “What’s that?” she asks excitedly. Indeed, what is it and what have her kids got in store for her?
“What did you do?” mom asks as she removes the lid of the red container. Well, the first answer to that is they made their mom cry. As soon as she realizes what’s in the box, in fact, the tears start to flow. She removes her glasses and takes a moment to compose herself before having a closer look.
Barely able to hold herself together, mom then begins to remove the contents of the box one item at a time. Carefully arranged in the container are dozens of handmade Christmas tree decorations. One by one, she takes out each ornament for a closer look at everyone’s hard work.
There are paper ornaments cut out in the shape of baubles and adorned with photos of the family. There are delicate glass baubles with pictures lovingly placed inside. And it’s all a little overwhelming for mom, who pauses for a moment, obviously overcome with emotions.
There are hand-decorated picture frames to hang on the Christmas tree, each with a family photo contained inside. Then Breanne points out a special one for her mom to see. It’s a combination of two ornaments with photos in, which immediately make her laugh. Clearly a memory from a happier time in the family’s past.
And yet, despite the adversity that the family have faced, they are still able to laugh together. As mom further examines the contents of the box, the jokes begin to flow. “Well, so this is the sales pitch,” John begins. “It’s five dollars for one. And if you want I can do $15 for two.”
But it isn’t long before the tears start to flow again. “It’s beautiful,” mom says, as she continues to look at each and every ornament individually. There are baubles filled with glitter in reds, greens and silvers, as well as ornaments in traditional Christmas themes such as snowmen and candy canes.
The last thing that the video shows is mom standing up to give her daughter a hug. Proof if it were needed that in difficult times, families are still able to pull together and make the best of what can seem like a desperate situation. “I love you. Thank you,” mom quietly says in her daughter’s ear.