A year ago today I received one of the most precious gifts by someone who didn't intend to gift me nor do they realize what a gift they accidentally gave. You see a year ago in January I lost my father to a long illness that changed the dynamic of our family for ever. But today I don't want to talk about that, today I want to tell you about my gift.
December 24, 2012 my husband and three kids left my in laws, raced by the barn to feed the animals then blew into our church to worship at the Christmas Eve service. My fathers health was declining rapidly at this point, the weather was cold and getting him in and out of the car was a chore my mother did multiple times a day with never a complaint on her lips. They had spent the evening at my sisters and had returned home late. She texted me as she was worried that there would be no room for them. I assured them that there was plenty of room (we could squeeze) and that I'd meet her in the parking lot to help her get him in the building quicker. Moments later she and I unloaded him faster than we ever had before and raced into the church right as the service was about to start. I pushed him to the end of the row where my family was seated and set the brakes on his wheelchair. However, the row was now overly crowded as people had squeezed in on the other side. Mom told me to sit and took a seat near a friend across the aisle from us. I offered to move daddy by her but she said he was fine. The seating was so cramped and crowded I found myself sitting on only half the pew, hanging off so far I was almost sitting on my daddy's lap.
Now you see don't you...my gift from my mother. To sit with my father at his last Christmas, to hold his shaking hand, to lay my head on his shoulder, to study his face knowing and yet not knowing that I would never have this moment again. Sometimes when I think back on this moment (which I do often) waves of guilt wash over me. While my mother (the most selfless person in the world) was unknowingly giving me a most precious gift, I was unknowingly stealing a most precious moment from her. I wonder if she's upset about that? Not that she would ever say if she was.
You see at my church, at the end of the service with the lights off, each of us holds a candle singing Silent Night. It's a moment I look forward to every single year and a tradition I pray never stops. And while we sang that song about a most glorious birth I was holding a lit candle in my right hand, so that my sweet daddy could feel as if he was also holding the candle. As I was raising and lowering it with each verse I was watching his crystal blue eyes tear up, I was listening to his raspy voice sing those words with me as I looked past him at my mother who was looking at us and smiling. These people that gave me life, that supported me in every way and helped me become the women I am today. Nowhere near perfect but one who was shown that the love of family is more important than anything else in the world.
One year ago today my mother gave me a gift, a gift I can never repay or return. A gift that lives in my heart and warms my soul. Tonight when I sit at that same church, possibly even the same pew, anchored between my husband and children on one side and my mother on the other, no doubt the emotions will be overwhelming and the memories will be blanketing me. But the gift...the gift will be what carries me through.