When I went to visit my mom in the nursing home this week, O Come, O Come Emmanuel was piping through the intercom. Garlands and Christmas ornaments were hanging from the ceiling, the Christmas tree was up in the visiting room, and the nurses were doing their best to make things a bit merrier for the residents.
But no matter how you decorate a nursing home for the holidays, it’s still a nursing home and it’s often depressing to visit. When I reached my mom’s room, she was slumped over in her wheelchair asleep, with her lunch still on the tray in front of her. I gently nudged her awake, and her face immediately lit up when she saw me.
She loves to color, and she leafed through one of the books to show me her latest handiwork. Then we came to a page that was yet to be colored, and the image was unrecognizable to both of us. We finally figured out it was a horse. She leafed through the coloring book a couple more times, and when she came to the picture again, she had no memory of the conversation we’d just had about it. I realized then how much her memory had slipped. The recognition of that fact depressed me.
On my way home, I thought about what to buy her for Christmas. I decided to buy her more coloring books and more blank notebooks she enjoys for scrapbooking. But after the visit, I realized that I what I really need to give her is the gift of more time. I get busy with my own life, and sometimes find myself dropping in briefly on the way to someplace else.
So I’ve decided that my gift to her—which will be ongoing throughout the year—is to give her more time. I plan to do the same with my aging father. My fiancé and I have decided not to exchange presents this year because we have everything we need, and have so little space anyway. But we do plan to exchange cards and to perhaps give to some children who are in foster care.
What I want more than anything from my loved ones is the gift of time and of being fully present when I am with them. And I know that is what they want most from me.
I invite you to consider your gift-giving this year, and to ask yourself some of the same questions. What can you give to your loved ones that will be more valuable and lasting than anything else? I suspect it will be more time, and the gift of your full presence when you are with them.
Lord, help me to be fully present to those I love this season, and to those who need my help. Show me how to give more fully from my heart and to reflect on all the ways you continue to be present for me.