A funeral for Christmas (Video)

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Dec. 4, 2012 at 6:04 a.m.
Updated Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

In a painful plea, the family of Samuel Lane humbly talks about their father and the families struggle in dealing with his impending death.

In a painful plea, the family of Samuel Lane humbly talks about their father and the families struggle in dealing with his impending death.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

STORY UPDATE: Donations from readers have been coming in throughout the day for the Lane family. Currently, several Christmas trees as well as financial and in-kind gifts have been made. The family is appreciative of the community support. However, donations to help offset the cost of a funeral are still needed if you are still interested in helping the family. Please contact Jeannie Decker 361-237-5387.

Gripping the sides of a steel manual wheelchair, Samuel Lane Jr. rolled into a cramped living room.

His wife, Maria Lane, sat down next to her husband on his twin-sized hospital bed.

She wrapped one arm around Lane's back and rested the other hand on his thigh.

After 20 years together, they're still in love, Maria said, smiling at her man as she entwines her fingers with his.

"I was blessed to meet my wife ... and then God blessed us with these four beautiful girls," said Lane, 56, scanning his daughters' tender faces, as tears began to form in the corners of his eyes.

Lane's white hospital bed sits against the living room wall about 3 feet from Maria's bed -- a faded blue love seat pushed against the opposite wall that's not quite long enough to sleep her.

"He sleeps on the bed, I sleep on the couch, and the girls take the two bedrooms," said Maria, 38, describing the sleeping arrangements for the family of six in their $450 per month rental property on East Red River Street.

The couple and their four daughters, Maekayla, 14; Marlanea, 13; Leslie, 12; and Monica, 10, have lived in the home for the past four years.

It's a quaint single-family corner lot property with mismatched furniture inside and the occasional sighting of baby cockroaches creeping across the hardwood floors. But the home is well-ordered, and replete with love - from husband to wife and child to parent.

With Christmas approaching, the family recalls memories of seasons past, where Lane would go out of his way to spend entire paychecks on real Christmas trees and presents to stuff under the tree.

"I never had a lot of money, but I would give them anything I had," Lane said, remembering and laughing, the tears falling more freely now.

In a few short months, Lane will die.

The girls will lose their father. Maria will lose her love.

"This is probably the last Christmas I will spend with them. I know soon I won't see them. I won't wake up and see them in the morning. I won't see them graduate from college. And that hurts me," Lane said over the hum of his oxygen tank, sweeping the tears away from his cheeks with one hand. "I pray that God will hold me up a little longer every day. I don't know how long I can stay, but I'm going to fight this as long as I can."

A few weeks ago, Lane was informed his congestive heart failure worsened.

His doctors expect him to live about six months, though the family is uncertain he will make it to Christmas Day.

Maria and Lane's sister, Jeannie Decker, are pre-arranging his funeral with Grace Funeral home in Victoria, putting down a modest amount to help pay off the $8,032 casket, service and burial price tag.

"Every little bit of money we get, we put toward the funeral," said Leslie, a student at Patti Welder Magnet Middle School.

"Christmas doesn't matter this year. We don't want anything. We just want to have money to pay for the funeral and we don't want him to suffer anymore," Marlanea added.

Lane's heart, sustained by a pacemaker, was operating at 1 percent in recent weeks, and his kidneys and other organs were shutting down. The complications were also interfering with Lane's Type 1 diabetes, an older disease responsible for Lane's recent double leg amputation below both knees.

"My job wants me to come back to work, but I told them no. My husband has six months to live and I'm going to spend every moment I can with him," Maria said.

Since Lane lost his legs, he's been unable to work in the oil field.

And since Maria gave up her job, the couple now prays that somehow God allows them to survive off Lane's $694 monthly disability check and food stamps.

"We're a couple of months behind on rent, so last month we had to decide if we wanted to pay rent or pay the electric bill," Maria said. "I chose the electric bill because he needed his oxygen machine. I paid the water bill because my kids need to take their baths."

Knowing this may be the last Christmas the four girls spend with their father -- a man they admire and respect for providing for them and pushing them to excel in education and pursue college even though he never learned how to read or write -- they did what any child might do for a dying parent.

They wrote a poem and requested it be published in the Victoria Advocate, asking for the community to help Santa bring their father a funeral for Christmas.

"Our family has no insurance. No money set aside. So we sat in our bedroom as my mom prayed and cried. So we prayed together in our room. We talked to God above. We told him we don't want no gifts, just compassion and some love," the poem states.

In the next stanza, the girls ask for anyone who "can spare a buck or two" to donate in their father's name to Grace Funeral Home.

"For children their age to give up Christmas like this for their father is amazing. Most kids wouldn't do this," said Decker, known in the family as "Tia."

"Every year my parents would give us everything we asked for ... we took advantage of it," Marlanea said, sobbing in her hands. "We didn't spend our money wisely. If we could take it back, we'd ask for smaller things and just want to spend time with" our father.

Neither Lane nor Maria knew their daughters wrote the poem or would be willing to give up their Christmas in exchange for money to pay off the funeral.

"How they can give up something they celebrate every year, I don't know. And they give it up for me," Lane said, still moved by the knowledge of his daughters' poem submission. "I love my kids ... and when I die I'll take them with me in my heart."

This year, the Lane family will not have a Christmas tree. There will be no presents, and their traditional noon Christmas Day meal of ham and tamales will be minimal, if they can financially pull it off at all.

But the girls don't care about Christmas, they said.

They'd rather have their father's health. They'd rather have a nice funeral to lay him to rest. Santa can come next year, they said.

But Lane, like any good father, would rather die being able to buy presents and a Christmas tree for his favorite girls on what is likely to be his final Christmas.

"How do you think I feel? This is probably the last Christmas I will spend with them, and I can't give them anything. I can't even leave anything behind for them to remember me next year," Lane said, lowering his chin to exhale a slow breath of anguish and shame.

Decker said the immediate family is also having financial troubles, but they, too, are chipping in where they can.

And for now, the family is focused on spending quality time together, praying for some kind of financial or medical miracle.

The girls, not quite old enough to deal with such tragedy, are determined to make this Christmas special, whether or not they have presents.

And they've realized that perhaps they've already been given the best present of all: Two parents who love them, and one more day with their ailing father.

"Christmas is not all about gifts. We've learned to cherish every moment with our family," Marlanea said.



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