Every year I hang a little beaded purse on my Christmas tree. Nothing elaborate–just a simple coin purse suspended on a length of red ribbon. But every time I look at that little purse, memories wash over me…
Christmas 1976. I was not-quite-16 and chafing a bit at the changes taking place as I moved from girlhood to womanhood. It seemed so much of life was unfair, and most especially the way we celebrated Christmas that year. Instead of going to Grandma’s house, where the air was always scented by homemade goodies, we visited the rest home where Grandma and Grandpa had recently taken up residence because of Grandma’s failing health. Instead of Grandma bustling around, laughing as she offered cookies and cocoa, she lay in a tall, institutional bed, her lined face tired and sad. Instead of a fragrant tree overflowing with time-worn ornaments, a tiny plastic tree with unlit bulbs sat on a little table in the corner of the dismal room. This was Christmas? My heart ached at all that had changed.
While my parents visited with Grandpa, I sat on the edge of Grandma’s bed and held her hand–the hand that always been so busy but now seemed like a stranger’s hand with its blue veins and parchment skin. We talked quietly about school and my future plans. Minutes slipped by, and I felt so grown up sitting there holding her hand and sharing my hopes for the years ahead.
Midway through our conversation, she instructed me to remove my gift from the drawer in the stand beside her bed. I unwrapped a tiny beaded purse from wrinkled tissue paper. As I opened it, Grandma explained that she had trusted a nurse aide to purchase my gift. She apologized, saying it was too childish for the young woman I was becoming, but it was all she had to give me.
I remember sitting there, holding that little purse, with a dozen thoughts rushing through my mind: All you have to give me? You’ve given me unconditional love and acceptance for as long as I can remember. You taught me to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and to recite the Lord’s Prayer. You’ve prayed with me and for me and have been an example of unselfish love every day of my life! Grandma, you’ve given me so, so much… But my teenage tongue only managed to tell her thank you for the gift. She smiled, and we continued to visit until tiredness overtook her and she fell asleep.
That was my last Christmas with Grandma. Less than a month later, on my 16th birthday, she slipped away to heaven. Although nearly four decades have passed, I still miss her. Especially at Christmas, that time of year when families gather. But I have my little purse and the memory of how she helped me understand, in a very simple way, that Christmas isn’t about elaborate gifts or decorated trees or plates of goodies. It’s about love–pure, unselfish love shared with those who are important to us. Grandma believed in the precious Gift offered by God at Christmastime, so I know one day I’ll see her again in heaven. I look forward to that time, to telling her how many of the dreams I shared on Christmas day in 1976 have come true. But, somehow, I think she already knows, and I’m pretty sure she’s smiling and thinking, “I knew you could do it, my Kim.”
May your Christmas be filled with wonderful memories to cherish!
God bless you muchly as you journey with Him!
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a best-selling, award-winning author with more than one million copies of her books currently in print. Awards include the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Sawyer lives in central Kansas, where she and her retired military husband, Don, run a bed-and-breakfast inn with the help of their feline companions. She savors time with her daughters and grandchildren.
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