Ethan Thorpe (front) with his brother Marcus and mom Rosie and the special gift he decided to give his grandmother this Christmas in memory of his grandfather who passed away. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton boy displays the true meaning of Christmas

The compasion of a young boy is the shining star of Christmas for his family

Ethan Thorpe’s story is not about a Christmas miracle, but rather it’s simply about a 10-year-old boy whose sense of compassion stretches well beyond his years.

It’s that caring for others that made him decide to spend Christmas this year with his grandma Carmen Wright in Langley instead of at home in Penticton with his family. That’s because his grandmother will be without her husband Gary who died in April after a two-year battle with cancer.

“He has always been very close to his grandparents and especially since grandpa got ill, every chance we got I would take him down to spend some time there,” said Ethan’s mom Rosie. “He (grandfather) was an exceptional man and in the final months, when he was dying, I kept telling Ethan that it is really important for you to ask grandpa questions and talk to him. He used to travel around the world had so many stories.

“My son would come home from those trips with his grandfather’s guitar, brass and all sorts of things. Their time together was so special.”

It was the day before Good Friday Rosie learned grandfather was in the final stages of his life and gave Ethan a very important choice to make.

“So he was nine then and I just asked him do you want to go one more time and say goodbye to grandpa because it’s going to be his time really soon or do you want to save your last memory of him alive?” recalled Rosie. “The grandfather’s other siblings didn’t want Ethan to see him because they were afraid he might be traumatized, but Ethan said he wanted to be there and his grandmother advocated for him. She said it was a part of life.”

Rosie packed up her two sons including four-year-old Marcus, whom Ethan is a “fierce protector” of, and made the drive to Langley.

“He got to sit with his grandfather in his final hours that night and say his goodbyes, and in the morning, when they went back his grandfather had died with his wife by his side,” said Rosie who was unable to hold back her tears at the memory of that difficult time and not being able to hold and comfort her son all those miles away. “Ethan phoned me right afterwards that morning — he’s just such a strong kid, so resilient and finds the best in everything — so I came and got him.”

Rather than coming straight home to Penticton, Rosie picked out a number of parks in the Lower Mainland to take her sons to enjoy the peace of nature.

“So on the way, we talked about some of the things they (Ethan and grandpa) had done and he cried on an off through the day,” said Rosie. “And when we went over the Golden Ears Bridge he said: ‘I remember when grandpa took me to a Canucks game and that it was a surprise and we went on this bridge,’ and he cried a little more.”

They went back the following week for the celebration of grandpa’s life and after that, Ethan began to put together a plan, for getting something special for his grandmother for Christmas in memory of grandpa.

He had already been saving his nickels and dimes from his Western News paper route to buy an Xbox, something he had wanted for a long time, but instead decided getting something more meaningful for someone else as a Christmas gift was a much better use of his savings.

According to his mom, after careful thought and lots of searching, Ethan decided the perfect present would be a family tree pendant which they eventually bought from a local jewelry store.

A photo of Ethan Thorpe when he was four and his late grandfather Gary Wright during one of their regular outings together. Submitted photo

“I just thought it would be a nice gift because this is her first Christmas without grandpa and it will probably be difficult for her,” said Ethan holding the boxed pendant by the Christmas tree at the family home on Wednesday. “The clear one (stone) is me and grandma and grandpa are the purple ones, the green one is my sister and the yellow one is my dad.

“My grandma is very nice and lots of fun. We play tennis and we have the same holidays and when I ask her to do things she always has time.”

Rosie added; “He’s really excited about it and he’s a little bit torn, but he decided to go because he knows this is grandma’s first Christmas without her husband and he knows how lonely and sad she will be, so he just wants to be there. Something he wants to do for her,” said Rosie. “It’s his choice and I teach my kids the value of choice. It’s emotional for me because it’s the first time we won’t be together for Christmas day, but he’s my son and I’m very proud of him and if that’s where he wants to be, then I’m 100 per cent behind him.”

Rosie began a family tradition a number of years ago of packing up big boxes with a number of special items, including a new pair of pyjamas, books and “a bunch of little trinkets” that the boys get to open Christmas Eve.

“So I’m taking that box along with him when we leave Friday morning to go to Langley, and he said he would phone or Skype us so we can still open them and be together,” said Rosie.

While Ethan’s story may not be a Christmas miracle, those whose hearts he has touched in his young life might disagree.

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