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The Gifts I Appreciate Most

My friend is an aging veteran of WWII, having served in Europe and returned home with all of the horrific memories that combat service indelibly writes on the minds of those who experience it. After the war, he married a woman he loved and returned to a normal life, at least as normal as a life can be after combat.

Usually, I love to receive notes from my friend. On this day, however, I received a note that gave me pause to think. My friend wrote to vent, not because he knows me so well that he knows that I am always ready to listen, but because I think he needed to express his feelings to the world and he did not have anyone else to whom he could turn. My friend’s wife of sixty years had died and he was looking at a holiday season without the love of his life who had helped to heal the wounds, or at least mask the pain, of memories best left forgotten.

My friend was angry and bitter and scared. He told me that when his wife had died in his arms, after a five year battle with cancer and other maladies of old age, she looked worse than many of the women that he had helped to liberate from concentration camps almost sixty-five years ago. My friend is a wreck and I wept to read his message. I hope that I was able to comfort him with my response, but I know that words are never enough to salve the pain of such loss.

I wept for my friend, and for his wife, but I also learned from my friend’s experience. I immediately told my wife that we were going to buy a piece of jewelry that she has wanted for the past two years, but which she refused to buy until the economy was better. It was not a hugely expensive piece, but it was still an extra in which she felt that she should not indulge. It was also something that was truly going to make her happy.

On Christmas Day, the only gift that I want is the gift of watching my wife open the package that contains that small indulgence and the joy of seeing my kids open their presents. I will be thankful that my 82-year old father is healthy and active and is there to join us, that my mother who has smoked for most of her 70-something years retains her health and that my brother, who was not expected to live past his first birthday, will be celebrating his 41st Christmas with us.

I probably will not have any gifts with my name on them under the tree. That is usually the case, and that is how I want it. My gifts will be crowded around the tree, smiling and laughing, and I shall be grateful this year and every year that each is there to share that day with me.

What do you want for Christmas?

10 thoughts on “The Gifts I Appreciate Most

  1. Dang, David, had to make me go find a kleenex, didn’t you? 🙂

    I only have one brother left out of my family and we don’t exchange gifts, but I do exchange with one friend. I don’t miss not having presents for just the reason you stated — good friends, good health, an (overactive) imagination and the beauty I see everywhere is gift enough for me!

    I hope your friend has someone to give him a hug and make him smile this holiday.

  2. All I want for Christmas is to see my son play again with his Varsity Soccer team before his Senior season ends. Don’t think it will happen as he just had surgery to repair his knee which was injured in a game next week.

    He’s the team captain, and after all the years of work to get to this point, it’s tough to have him miss this…

    But I do have my sons, my boyfriend, family, home, pets… everything else I need. It’s not about the gifts, its about the life experiences!

  3. We celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving and call it Thanksmass. Each person (all children of all ages over 2 participate) chooses something from there own belongings that they love and want to share with another family member. It is wrapped up for a gift, given a number then set under the family tree. Each person draws a number from “the hat” and that is the present they get. It is quite touching when a 6 year old wraps up his favourite childhood book his mother once read to him and an Auntie receives it. No one buys a single gift but everyone has received a gift a real love.

  4. I read these message every time I get them, but have never left a comment, until today. This was an outstanding message although it had to deal with pain and sorrow. You have given your friend, the writer of the note, a gift that I am sure he cherishes beyond words, and that is the gift of knowing he had someone he could turn to, someone he knew would understand, someone he knew would care. This is a very rare gift indeed in these days of people being too stressed, too busy, to overwhelmed to actually reach out and care about somebody else. Yes this Christmas Season will be difficult beyond words for your friend that lost his wife, but I am certain that having you as his friend will bring him a degree of comfort that you may never know he felt. I thank you for this message you have shared with us, and I can only pray that I could do the same for someone else, as you have done for your friend. Actions such as this truly are “the reason for the Season”.

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