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Friday, October 31, 2008

Christmas Before Thanksgiving




(Grandma is the lovely lady on the left.)



The move from a spacious acreage to a small, one-bedroom apartment was devastating to my grandmother. She was forced to move because of an aggressive inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis.

In her new apartment complex other women were experiencing the same pain she was; terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study. Grandma became a faithful member. This band of prayer warriors became "kindred spirits" as they prayed for one another and comforted each other from God's Word.

It became apparent by fall that Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body was growing weaker. A few days before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Grandma Eleanor was dying. Some had seen the ambulance take her away. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

I hurried to the hospital and hovered over my grandmother's weak frame. I cherished every moment I could spend with her. There was a tap on Grandma's Hospice room door. One of her friends from her Bible study appeared at the door. In her arms was a brown paper grocery sack. She tiptoed to Grandma's bedside, and stooped over the metal bedrail and planted a kiss on Grandma's cheek. Grandma's dark chocolate eyes twinkled as she recognized her friend.

"Mable, how did you get here?" Grandma asked.

"Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to." Mable chuckled, "It's cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!"

"Oh Mable, you shouldn't have come out in this bitter cold."

"I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It's all right here in my bag."

Mable rummaged through her brown bag. She pulled out a bright red envelope.

"This one is from me to you, Eleanor!" She showed Grandma the card. The sunlight shone through the window. Sunbeams splashed on the colorful card causing Mable's eyes to squint.

"Let me read it to you." Mable said as she began to read aloud,

What can I give Him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I'd give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I'd do my part,
I know what I'll give Him,
All of my heart!


Tears glistened in Grandma's eyes as she whimpered, "Thank you,
Mable."

"That's not all, Eleanor, there's more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year." Mable gushed as she pulled out a small package wrapped in previously used Christmas paper topped with a recycled, red bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her special gift. Mable handed it to me. I carefully tore the paper off the small box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a teddy bear holding a lacey parasol.

"Yep, it's true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year." Mable squealed as she reached for Grandma's hand.

"Mable, thank you and all the other ladies for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group goodbye for me. Thank them for all their prayers. Tell them I'll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year."

Hot tears trickled down Mable's face and fell on her quivering lips.

"I love you, Eleanor!"

"And I love you!" Grandma whispered and then closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Mable reached for me. We embraced. We wept. I thanked her for her kindness to my beloved grandmother as I walked her to the door and told her goodbye.


When I returned to Grandma's side, I wept quietly as I realized that Grandma's "home-going" would be soon. I looked at the teddy bear holding the lacey parasol. I reread Mable's Christmas card,

What can I give Him poor as I am?

I realized that I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing Grandmother wouldn't live until Christmas.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother such a wonderful friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable's visit! She celebrated Christmas with Jesus.

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