Tucked away in a safe place within the walls of my heart, is a vision of my Father, Christmas Eve some 22 years ago. I can vividly see the look upon my Father’s face, because it was a look that transcended all expression. It was beyond gratitude or joy and it was as if he were recording our faces, our voices and acts to be filed for ready access in the depths of his soul It was as if he had something to say, but couldn’t express it. I didn’t know what it was but I felt it to be deep and profound.
It was that Christmas that I learned something that I have referred to as “The Gift”!
12 days later a family meeting was called by my Father and he obviously had something on his mind. With a heavy heart he shared with us that before he was released from the hospital (a few days before Christmas) he was told that the cancer had spread and was given 3 months to live. He explained to us that he didn’t want to ruin our holiday and wanted to give the family the 12 days of Christmas.
That day the light bulb went off for me, as I realized that on Christmas Eve, my Father was drinking it all in for the last time. Less than 3 months later, my Father passed away.
So let me say it for you . . . where is “The Gift” in that? Seems to me to be an unnecessary emotional bomb that I just dropped on you. No? There are in fact, many. Please read on.
The first is a constant reminder that if my Dad could keep himself from wearing devastating news like that on his sleeve, perhaps I can keep whatever BS I’m going through off of mine! And let’s not pretend that we don’t know what I’m talking about either. I’m talking about the boss, the job, the A-hole who stole the parking spot, the kids, the wife, the bills, and for the “Bah Humbug” crowd . . . . the season!
When I am guilty of wearing those things on my sleeve (and I am), perhaps I am also guilty of getting in the way of someone else’s joy. Something for us all to think about next time we care to offer someone an invite to our pity party. Might be a “gift” in understanding that one!
The other “gift” is savoring the moment, involving all of your senses and living the holiday (and dare I say, our lives) as if this will be the last one. Someday we’ll be right!
I believe there is also a “gift” in catching yourself enjoying that moment. Don’t they call it the present for a reason? Personally, I think it sucks when we are enjoying a moment solely in retrospect! I triple dog dare you to catch yourself in the act of enjoying your life!
Gratitude is yet another gift that I have taken away from that event. Gratitude that I saw the moment when my Dad was savoring his last Christmas. In that moment, I was able to share something very profound . . . a moment when someone who had come to the end of their journey was counting their blessings!
Additional “gifts” come from that knowledge too. All of us have an expiration date. If you knew you were on your final 3 months would you be filled with regret or gratitude? Even more “gifts” come our way with the ability to start, right now in positioning ourselves for a “regret free” life!
There’s still more, I promise!
If we can’t embrace gratitude, how about refusing to allow resentment to enter our lives? Not once during his final days did he ever convey feelings of resentment for a life cut short at 65! Instead of anger that Christmas Eve, he was grateful. And don’t think that I’ve never had to face anger and resentment in my own journey. There were many times when I was rebuilding my life that I allowed those feelings to creep in. Reflecting back on Dad’s last Christmas Eve always gave me the necessary kick in the ass I needed to stay the course. Speaking of which; do you need a swift kick in the ass? It’s OK if you do, mine has been numb from the necessary kicks from time to time!
“The Gift” is also an opportunity for us to become selfishly selfless. It means finding a need, thinking beyond ourselves and giving unconditionally. How?
Giving of encouragement. Never, ever underestimate the power of giving someone the ability to take another round!
Giving of our time, our patience and our genuine interest!
Giving of our prayers . . . who doesn’t need a little spiritual good press these days?
“The gift” of forgiveness as well as “the gift” to remove our ego’s long enough to ask someone else to forgive us!
And in true "Charity begins at home" spirit . . . how about the gift of forgiving yourself and understanding that "failure" is merely part of the process of becoming successful.
“The gift” of giving someone their "flowers" while they are alive (instead of later on their tombstone) by telling them you love them, what they mean to you, how they’ve inspired you, what you’ve learned from them etc. Just give them their tribute now, so they too can enjoy a “gift”! The ultimate "gift" is the urgency to do that now!
“The gift” of joy we feel when we know we helped create joy in someone else’s life.
The final "gift" is the ability to take our own sad stories, challenges and speed bumps and somehow take something from it! In that moment, you may have something that becomes "a gift that keeps giving"!
With that, I want to thank you all for my “gift” . . . the opportunity to share something personal that profoundly shaped my life. I share it with the hope that it will breed numerous “gifts” to you and all those who surround you this holiday season!
Please take a moment to look, to savor and to embrace the many gifts that surround you! They are there. Sometimes we just need to look a little harder!
Oh, and before I forget . . . Dad, thank you for “the gift”!
Wishing you and your family blessings of peace, joy and more “gifts” than could ever fit under your tree!
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