In time of grief, the spirit of Christmas for Gary Kalisz family

JUPITER FARMS, Fla. - There are times we all find ourselves searching. This Christmas is one of those times for the Kalisz family.

"I'm missing my husband, Michael's dad, this is our first Christmas without him," Deborah Kalisz said.

Deborah's husband, Gary, passed suddenly this year.  It was just a few months after 14-year-old Michael had started his battle with melanoma skin cancer.

Gary used to pick out the Christmas tree with his two sons every year.  The family funds were going towards Michael's treatment this year.

"This year, I didn't have the money for a tree," Deborah said.

In the midst of their grief, Deborah found an anonymous gift in her mailbox one day.  It was a note that somebody had left to say their Christmas tree was paid for, they just had to go pick it out.

"Somebody had done that for Michael - for us - for my family - for Gary," Deborah said, her eyes filling with tears.

Several families, including one they had just met two days before Christmas, have reached out with money for gifts.

"These people that we don't even know that have been contacting us have been really wonderful," Michael said.

Across town, Taya McCann met Deborah over email.  This year, McCann's family is giving all of the money they would have spent on gifts to each other, to Deborah and her two sons. 

McCann's brother, Michael, shared the name of Deborah's son.  McCann says she remembers what the support of others can mean at Christmas, especially the first holiday immediately after losing a loved one.

She met Deborah one day and was surprised during the conversation.

"She says, oh, Michael's birthday is March 21st, and I said, oh you're kidding me, that's the day that my brother passed away.  That's so strange. And then it didn't seem so strange. Because it just seemed completely, it was bigger than just us then," McCann said.

Deborah says she grew up Jewish and her sons were raised Catholic. In this time of searching, she says she has discovered more than she had anticipated.

"The spirit of Christmas means more to me today than it did in my whole entire life. Because two women and three people I don't know, made small donations," she said.

Click here for more information on how to help the Kalisz family.

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