The Christmas Gift of Presence

Be Well Be Happy
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Years ago, my family and I had to attend to the task of sorting through our parents’ home. Slowly but surely, we cleared away years of clutter, one step at a time. It’s a tough process fraught with a lot of emotion. One thing that filled my heart with warmth, love and connection with my mom was seeing that we shared similar paths of being a spiritual seeker. Growing up, we watched my mom go to church every day, pray and read many spiritual books. She would rise at dawn, say her prayers then get to the business of her day. I never paid much attention until I was a mother myself. Some of my favorite memories are when we would attend retreats together and our chats over tea. Simple things in life. My dear mother Marilyn was devout and had accumulated many books over time and what was surprising to me as I cleaned up my parents’ home, was that I had gravitated to some of the very same authors and mystics I found on her bookshelf such as Anthony de Mello, Fr. John Girzone, Thomas Merton, and St. Teresa of Ávila. Gathering the books up from the bookshelves, I knew I couldn’t part with them. They were part of her path and a beautiful legacy of the light-filled life she lived.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I watched as she slowly lost her ability to read those books and pray her prayers. Conversations were simple and eventually the silence came, and she said very little, but her spirit was always there. She never lost her ability to feel love and always lit up when together with loved ones. She was physically here and yet I missed her desperately. The holiday season brings back all the memories of our loved ones and they are the gifts we hold onto for warmth. The most precious gift I had one Christmas was three minutes with my mom. As I rushed in one Christmas Eve morning, I found her in her usual spot nestled in the couch with her favorite blanket and a stuffed Sesame Street Grover clad in holiday red that she loved to hug. Grover had a perpetual smile smacked on his face that seemed to bring her joy. I smiled at the sight and said, “Hey Mom! How are ya today?” and was greeted with the usual sound of silence. But as I walked past her a few more steps she responded, “Hi Kathleen, how are you? Where is everyone?” My heart skipped a beat. My mom is here! She said my name! I turned and slowly saddled up next to her. I knew that whatever neurons were firing in her brain and had brought her back to me would only last for a few precious seconds. We talked gently and sweetly, she asked about family. I reassured her we would all be with her later that day, but she was here now! We held hands, talked about things. I made her laugh and heard her old familiar giggle. I told her I love you, we all love you so much and suddenly the fog rolled in and she was gone again. That opportunity never happened again. That Christmas Eve morning, I had the divine gift of three minutes with my sweet mom. It was the most precious present I have ever been given. The most valuable gift of time, presence, and love. 

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, but felt with the heart.” The gift is simple this year! Lots and lots of Presence! May the gift of Peace and Love be yours this season and all year through. Namaste!

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