“What gift did Noel not give me?” Wendy Anderson said of her daughter.
After her daughter, Noel Sparks, was killed in the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting last November, Anderson and her family have not celebrated Christmas in the same way. But this year, Anderson expects that to change.
When Sparks was alive, she always gifted her family homemade bath salts, tea mugs, dream catchers and necklaces, but the best gift Noel ever gave her mother came after her death.
Sparks was incredibly active within her church. She worked at Calvary Community Church in Westlake teaching worship songs and God’s love to children and teens. She was a counselor at a Christian camp in the Sierras. The 21-year-old Moorpark College student had also completed three semesters of ceramics and used her talents to give back. This mindset paralleled Wendy’s, who believed if you receive a gift, you should give a gift. For Wendy, the gift of love that she gave Noel was always returned to her by her daughter.
The Sparks family had lost most of their Christmas ornaments while moving to one house from another when Noel was younger.
“After she passed, I was brought a box from her [ceramics] studio at Moorpark and in there were two full gallon bags – one of stars, all hand painted, and the other one was angels, all hand painted with different colored blouses, different colored skirts, and ribbons in their hair,” Anderson explained. “They were Christmas ornaments.”
The Sparks family was going to have a Christmas again.
To the Sparks family, this was Noel telling her loved ones that they were going to have a great Christmas and celebrate it full on, with a kitchen smelling of Christmas cookies and a Christmas tree dangling with ornaments, thanks to Noel’s decorations.
This wasn’t the first time Noel sent signs to her family. On the night of the Borderline shooting, Anderson was recovering from spinal surgery at Cedar-Sinai hospital when she abruptly woke up to the feeling of an earthquake. Except there was not actually an earthquake. Immediately, she sat up noticing the calm and quiet eighth floor of the hospital. There were no nurses around. No one was in a panic trying to get patients out. It was as if only she had felt it. That’s when she got the feeling that something was wrong with one of her children.
“I’m sitting there going, ‘Okay, my kids. Something’s wrong. I have to get up. Whatever it is, I have to get up,” thought Anderson, still hooked up to hospital wires.
But as she attempted to sit up, she said the next thing she remembered is feeling Noel in the room with her, running her arm down Wendy to lull her back to sleep.
Wendy explained, “The next thing I know Noel was in there. She nudged me back down on my chest and said, ‘Mom, everything is going to be okay. You just have to lay down, you just had surgery.’”
Sparks had already been killed by the time her spirit had visited Wendy in the hospital, repeatedly telling Wendy that everything was going to be okay.
“I hang on to that, because she was already dead at that point,” Anderson said.
Anderson was unsurprised by her daughter’s visit, because of the selfless and caring person she described her to be. That’s why the Christmas ornaments meant so much to Anderson — it was Noel’s final material gift to her.
“That last gift meant so much to me,” Anderson said.