My Favorite Gift This Christmas

It’s been a little over a week since we celebrated Christmas. My family actually celebrated four different times with various family, and we were all so blessed to receive many wonderful gifts. As I sit here looking at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree, the idea of taking it down saddens me. I don’t want to forget the precious moments that happened this past Christmas Eve.

We traveled up north to see our families and to celebrate the first three Christmases. We planned to see my Grandma who is 97 years old and my last living grandparent. She has lived in an assisted living facility for some time now and currently lives on a memory care floor. She has suffered from dementia for a while and doesn’t recognize her family or make sense of anything most days. About a month ago she fell badly and hurt her hip and is now wheelchair bound. Her appetite continues to decrease as does her movement, and Hospice has been called in for this final chapter of her life.

Each time I visit, I don’t know if it will be the last time I will see her this side of heaven. What sort of Christmas gift does one get her grandma who is dying and doesn’t know who she even is? And then it hit me. We were discussing going to a Christmas Eve service at our old church. Something in me just didn’t want to go, and instead I suggested we as a family go caroling at my Grandma’s place. My husband found some carols to play on the guitar and our family met there on Christmas Eve morning.

After spending a few moments with her, we wheeled my Grandma out to the main area of the floor and others began to come as well. Then we began to sing as a family. The first song we sang was Jingle Bells and can you believe it, my Grandma was singing along! She later told us that that was her favorite Christmas carol. We continued to sing and the little ones jingled their bells along to the music.

We sang a few more carols and then began Silent Night. As we sang I looked around the room. There was a sweet lady who was crying over in the corner as she listened, and another woman raising her hands in worship while we sang, “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.” There was also a worker who began to shed tears at this sight while we sang. There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the place including my own. I was witnessing the beautiful Spirit in this place. This was better than any church service our family could have attended. How many of these people experience a calm and bright night anymore? Most of these people are so confused and frustrated. They stand at the elevator wondering when they can leave and continuously wait for a loved one to come and visit them. For a few small moments, the frustrations went away and they were able to sit and enjoy some music, and in these precious moments, my stresses and cares melted away as well.

My favorite gift this year was to see the power of God shine in this small memory care lobby — to watch my kids hand out Christmas cards and talk with those lonely faces. To see those faces light up as they saw my children sing and heard the simple music. And the best part of all was seeing my Grandma sing and show a hint of a smile on her face. This was Christmas!

When it was time to leave, I hugged my Grandma and told her I loved her and she grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. Did she remember who I was? I don’t know, but I am hopeful that in those few moments when we sang to her and her friends that even though their memory fails them most of the time, this feeling of love and peace consumed their hearts even if for a brief moment. My heart was blessed beyond what I could have imagined on this particular Christmas Eve morning. Ann Voskamp says it well,

You only really believe in Christmas when you really live it. When you light a dark world in the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; when you are a wick to light hope in the dark — then you believe in Christmas. When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone.”

I am so glad that I listened to that small still voice inside telling me to speak up and lead my family to do this. I know they were all blessed by this experience too. My prayer is that I may not lose that precious gift of Christmas even after I take my tree down and the hustle and bustle of life continues after the presents are opened and we have left our loved ones. So I encourage you today to continue to live out the magic of Christmas. Be a light to someone’s darkness today. Give hope. Just give. This Christmas I truly experienced that it is better to give than receive, and for me, the gift of giving turned into an experience that I will guard in my heart and not soon forget.

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