Before I became a freelance writer and blogger, I worked for a national, non-profit organization for children with cancer and then later for the cancer center of a children’s hospital in Houston. I was inspired daily by the strength and love I witnessed from families faced with the illness and the doctors, nurses and other professionals who cared for them.
When I heard about the inspirational movie, The Heart of Christmas, which premiered last year and was released recently on DVD October 16, 2012, I knew I wanted to see it.
Starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Kingsbury, George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League), Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood), and GRAMMY®-nominated recording artist Matthew West, the movie tells the story of Austin and Julie Locke, who are devastated to learn that their one-year-old son, Dax, had been diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia.
After several failed treatments and experimental therapy, The Lockes were faced with the fact that their son would most likely die before Christmas. So in October 2009, they decorated their home for the holiday so Dax could enjoy the lights. When their neighbors saw their holiday decorations and learned about the reason why they set them out early, they rallied behind the family. As their story spread, soon the town of Washington was lit for Dax. His story appeared on CNN and captured the hearts of people around the world. Dax did live to see Christmas day but passed away soon after… on December 30, 2009.
You can watch the trailer here.
I had the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke to visit with her about the film and her experience. The movie, while certainly sad, is also incredibly uplifting. The message of hope and peace of God’s love is woven throughout the entire film…displayed through the relationships that the Lockes developed with other families fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the medical staff that never gave up on them.
When I talked to Julie, she said that one of the greatest results from the movie so far is how it has positively impacted people’s lives.
“Many people have reached out to me after seeing the film to tell me how it made a difference in their own lives,” said Julie. “People have shared with me that they cherish their families more and most importantly, that they have built a relationship with God. I see clearly now that this movie was part of God’s plan,” she said.
The Lockes were approached by singer, Matthew West who wanted to write a song about their story. “I didn’t know who Matthew was at the time, but I just believe that you have to put yourself out there and let God work through others,” said Julie. “We’re not strong enough to do this on our own.” (West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Original Music and Lyrics for his song about The Lockes “The Heart of Christmas” this year.)
As a mother, I know the fear that comes with every cold, fever or broken bone. To have your child faced with an illness like cancer is unimaginable. When I worked at the hospital here in Houston, I remember asking my friend whose son was fighting the disease how she did it. She told me – you do it because you have to. You wake up each morning and you put your feet on the floor and you move forward because your child needs you.
But most parents at the hospital would tell me that you don’t have to (and really can’t) do it alone. For Julie, it was the strength and support of the families she met at the hospital, the caring doctors and staff at St. Jude…and God, that gave her the power and peace to move forward.
“I never had experienced that before Dax was sick…the true love of God. It really started when I met Elizabeth’s mom (a patient at St. Jude). I found God through the experience and learned that even when I wasn’t trusting Him, He trusted me,” said Julie.
The Lockes, like many others who have lost a loved one, miss Dax daily and struggle with his loss especially at the holidays. “I live for Dax by taking care of other people,” said Julie. “But during the holidays we really try to spend time together as a family, just us. Especially on the day he died…. taking time to cherish every moment we have together. It’s the most important thing.”
For those that are struggling with loss this Christmas, she says – “Lean on God. He loves you. Allow Him in your heart and surround yourself with His spirit. I did that in Memphis. Before that I had my walls up, but His love is so powerful.”
Today, Julie spends time fundraising for St. Jude and raising her two-year-old daughter, Madeline who was born after Dax passed away. It is the Lockes’ goal to raise $1.8 million dollars in Dax’s memory, the cost of running the hospital for one day. “I lived there for a year and never paid anything,” said Julie. “I remain so touched by what St. Jude does for patients and their families. They gave me 1 1/2 years with Dax.”
For more information about the film, visit The Heart of Christmas on the web. To learn more about the Lockes, their true story of hope and compassion and how you can get involved, visit the Dax Locke Foundation.
The Heart of Christmas is available at Target and Walmart and online at Walmart.com. However, two readers of Still Living The Dream will win a copy of the DVD. It’s my hope that you will watch the movie and share the story and the Lockes’ message “Cherish Every Moment” with as many people as you can. Just leave a comment telling me what you cherish the most. Two winners will be selected at random on December 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. CST.
Help spread the word about this important film and get another chance to win! I would love for Julie to get tons of tweets from people sharing her message of love.
- Tweet this: “I will cherish every moment this Christmas in memory of Dax Locke @jpatrickcomm @JulieALocke #TheHeartofChristmas http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/the-heart-of-christmas-movie-review-interview-and-giveaway.html”
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