Yesterday I took some Turkey Tetrazzini and a salad to a dear friend from church who lost his wife this past fall. If you were to meet this gentleman, within the first twenty minutes of conversation you would know two important things about him. First is his incredible faith in God. Second, and as apparent as the first is his love for his wife. My friend and his wife had been married for over 40 years, and he still cherishes her as much today as he did the day they got married.
We visited for a while, and talked about all sorts of things, including, of course, his wife. She died suddenly, just like her mother did. She had told my friend many times that when it was time for her go too, that she prayed it would be quick and painless, just like her mother. My friend is relieved that her prayer was answered.
As I was getting ready to leave, he took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and told me he was doing well. He said that he was at peace with his wife's death, and that he was at peace with his life without her. I believe that he believes this is true.
But I am also anxious for him as we move into the holidays and beyond. The holidays can be difficult for any of us. We struggle with expectations, our own and those that others have of us. We struggle with how busy things are this time of year. As a Christian, I struggle with how to make sure the reason for the Christmas season shines through in the midst of the commercialization and greediness that is a poor substitute for worship and contemplation, and spending time with those people you love. This Christmas will be more difficult for him, his first one without his dear wife. But my friend has many people who love him, and who will take some extra time to make sure he's got company and attention (and food!).
There are many others who aren't that lucky. So, this Christmas season, pay attention to the people around you, and take some time to help those in need. People in need of money, but also people in need of conversation. People in need of a coat, but also people who just need a smile. Be aware of how your words and actions can affect people - those you love and those you happen upon in your day to day life. This holiday, give the gift of yourself and your time. The gift you get back will be better than any box under the tree.