When I walked into her room, she was fidgety yet dressed nicely and sitting in her wheelchair, facing the window.
“Gwen, its Todd,” I said, walking slowly toward her until her mind could click into recognizing my face. Gwen is a former neighbor who has no connected family and is under our care as power of attorney. A school teacher of more than forty years, she long past ‘adopted’ my kids as hers and would dote on them as best she could.
I knew this visit was going to special. The holiday present I was just about to give would add years to her life and make her light up like the star on top of the Christmas tree.
I repeated, “Gwen, its Todd” and she responded, “Oh, hi.”
“I brought a present for you that I think you’re going to like,” I said. Then I turned back and opened her door wider revealing my son, Nathan and my daughter, Maddie. In unison, they lovingly said, “Hi Grandma!”
Again, Gwen just stared at them not knowing who they were. It had been quite a while — too long, in fact — that they had been able to visit.
“Its Nathan and Maddie,” I helped.
Then the light went on, the smile exploded and her heart filled with joy — real joy. They knelt down and hugged her and she couldn’t stop chatting. She commented on Nathan’s “longer-than-a-girl” hair and how beautiful Maddie had become. She asked mountains of questions about Nathan’s band and Maddie’s college and then asked them the same questions again — and then a third time. My kids obliged and were amazing.
It was a brief visit — maybe twenty minutes at the most — but my kids’ presence was the greatest present I could’ve given.
Thats the thing about presents. The best ones aren’t purchased at Walmart on Black Friday. They aren’t exchanged at the office white elephant party or enjoyed eaten and paired with a fine red wine. The best present is simply to be present (tweet that). Having a personal connection with people you love and simply being there reflects the heart of our Creator. This time of year, we celebrate him stepping into our room and promising his presence through his Spirit.
As we left her room, she kept saying, “You don’t know how happy I feel! This was so special! I love you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I don’t know if they’ll see Gwen again — this side of heaven. The likelihood is possible. But whatever the case, I learned in those few moment that the best presents are the times when you and I can deepen relationships, enjoy company and reflect the heart of God.
Peace and Happy Thanksgiving!