Christmas Has Come Early For A Local Family and West Fargo
"Every year, my mom loved Christmas. We'd hit the awesome neighborhoods where every house was lit up and those were some of the best memories. She loved Christmas"
WEST FARGO, ND — There’s nothing quite like the holidays.
Once that first snow comes, some people can’t wait to pull out the old Christmas tree and begin hanging their holiday lights.
And if you’ve been driving through the streets of West Fargo in the last week, Christmas…has definitely come early.
But you may be surprised to learn, Christmas is not what is on the mind of these early decorators.
It’s more about who they’re doing it for.
“Every year, my mom loved Christmas. We’d hit the awesome neighborhoods where every house was lit up and those were some of the best memories. She loved Christmas,” said Britney Berger, Debi’s daughter.
Britney Berger says her mom Debi definitely carried the spirit of Christmas all year long.
As a mother of two girls, Debi taught her daughters that no matter what your circumstances in life are…
“Make somebody happy. Make somebody smile” said Britney.
It’s the kind of attitude that Debi believed just spilled over at the holidays.
“She loved that Christmas always seemed to heighten that. One person on the block sees Christmas lights go up and slowly but surely, one by one, go up because we’re all feeling the same thing. We’re all starting to get that Christmas spirit and that was her favorite part about it,” said Britney.
It was something the family held onto after they were told Debi didn’t have very much time left.
“The hardest part about that decision was understanding that once you come home on Hospice, there’s no more treatment. It’s just pain management,” said Britney.
Those were some dark days for Britney and her family.
But Debi, always the optimist, had one last wish.
“If it could be Christmas all year, she’d love it,” said Britney.
So it became a daughter’s mission: to create Christmas, one last time, for a mother she loved so much.
“It’s been unbelievable ever since. So beautifully overwhelming,” said Britney.
Britney’s friend, Kim, jumped into action.
“Something hit me. Like if I put myself in her shoes that could be my mom. It just hurt because eventually I’m going to have to go through this and I would want someone to do it for me,” said Kim Satrom from West Fargo.
Kim began talking to her West Fargo neighbors.
And like any good story, word…spread fast.
“We’re just happy to do even just a little bit to make it a little happier for her,” said a neighbor decorating his house.
Once people in West Fargo learned about Debi’s last wish, neighbors got to work, putting up lights, pulling out the trees and decorating their homes…all to create Christmas for Debi Berger.
“They were touched by it. They made an effort to come out and be a part of it. That’s so exciting,” said Britney.
Businesses, co–workers and neighborhood groups got involved.
And then…West Fargo Mayor, Rich Mattern, stepped in.
“We’re going to have some police cars out there with lights on and we’re going to have a fire truck, hopefully a ladder truck out there with some lights on it. And we’re going to proclaim it ‘Debi Berger Day’,” said Mayor Rich Mattern.
KVRR’S Danielle Church was the one who told Britney about the Mayor’s proclamation on Thursday of this week.
“This is just the most beautiful, incredible, wonderful thing that could have happened. It’s so much more than I asked for. Thank you to everybody. This is so incredible,” said Britney.
But before the big reveal could take place, Britney, her family and the City of West Fargo were dealt a blow.
Debi, in the early morning hours, took her last breath.
“She was sleeping. She was calm. She was wrapped up in her bed. It was exactly how she wanted it,” said Britney.
Britney says she found her mother in those last moments and in a way, found it comforting.
“Just to sit there with her. Spend those last moments. Not everybody gets that. If you do get the chance, take it. Take it, take it, take it,” said Britney.
Take the moment was exactly what the City of West Fargo did.
Instead of getting to celebrate Christmas with Debi, the community honored her in spirit.
And the city turned on their lights for Debi.
Even with all of the hustle and bustle, Debi was never far from Britney’s mind.
“She got to sit peacefully, watch from above. She got the best view. I can only imagine it is reminiscent of a space photo where you look at the country lights from that high up. My mom…she went out in the best way possible,” said Britney.
Britney says what the community did for her mother is something she will never forget.
But looking at all of the smiling, happy faces is perhaps exactly Debi’s way of reaching out to complete strangers.
“The last piece of advice in her obituary, so to speak, is make somebody smile today if it is in your power,” said Britney.
Tonight, if you take a drive through the city, take a detour down some of the streets, who have their lights burning for Debi.
Perhaps it’s much like what Charles Dickens once wrote in his famous tale, “A Christmas Carol.”
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Jessie Cohen, KVRR Local News.