12:46 AM, Dec 23, 2012
Skaters glide on a pond while little children line up to sit on the lap of jolly St. Nicholas.
Nearby, cut trees are piled high in the corner of the Christmas tree lot.
Santa’s sleigh, pulled by six reindeer, soars overhead.
The scenes are part of an intricately detailed Christmas village in the home of Bill Lannigan of Crittenden. Now in its 18th year, the annual display for family and friends is more than just tradi tion to Lannigan – it is a reminder that Christmas miracles do happen.
Always enthusiastic about the holiday season, Lannigan spent days each year decorating his home inside and out, but in 1994, there were no decorations. There wasn’t even a tree. Lannigan and his wife, Mary, had spent each day since Thanksgiving at the hospital with their only child, Michelle.
Not quite 2 years old, Michelle had been diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that offered little promise of survival. When she was released just before Christmas, Lannigan wanted to add a little holiday spirit. A Christmas village was purchased and a new tradition was born.
“We stopped and got this 10-piece set and figured we’d at least set up something for Boo Boo,” Lannigan said, calling his daughter by the nickname he still uses when speaking to her. “That original set included a doctor’s office, but it was never lit. I said we were done with doctors when we first came home.”
Michelle wasn’t done with doctors, though. She underwent major surgery and five years of additional testing, visiting the hospital two to three times each week. The doctors called her a miracle.
“Every time the doctors saw her, they’d say she shouldn’t even be alive,” Lannigan said.
The following year, he invited his little girl, who was regaining her health, to help him set up the display, which now included a few additional pieces.
“I remember setting it up as a kid. I remember the different variations,” said Michelle, now 19 and healthy. …
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