The Last Best Gift

A tall Christmas tree lit with tiny lights and adorned with pre-school decorations brightened the waiting room. Looking for a place to sit, I noticed an empty seat right next to the festive tree, across from an older woman with a perky, bright pink turban.

We smiled at one another—one of those wish we could be somewhere else smiles. As I slid into the chair I commented on the little Santa ornaments traced from tiny hands. She nodded and lightly touched the little paper fingers.

With our chairs so close, I couldn’t help but notice how frail the woman was. She was gazing at all the little hands hanging from the tree. I asked if she had grandkids.  And with that single question, I came to learn about this woman’s life.

She reached into her purse and pulled out a small folder containing old pictures of her seven grandkids. Her family was stretched across the miles now, and that’s when I noticed tears in her eyes. 

A deep sigh followed, and she slowly moved her head from side to side, as if in resignation. She didn’t say what the family argument had been about, but the words had left deeply hurt feelings. 

No one wanted to talk about the fight and then soon enough, no one talked at all. She hadn’t had her family together in almost ten years. Not that she hadn’t tried every way possible—even begging. But the younger hearts prevailed, and they shut her out of their lives.

I imagined her regret for lost years, of grandkids growing up, of missing so many shared events, and now this—sitting alone in a cancer treatment waiting room.

“If I could have my last, best gift this Christmas, it would be to see my family together again.” She shook her head sadly—for she knew time was no longer her friend. 

Hurtful words had become a cancer, killing her family. What a sad irony.

The nurse came and I watched her bright pink turban disappear down the hall. 

Ten years. I couldn’t imagine holding onto anger that long. Why is it so much easier to burn bridges
than build them? In a season of gift-giving and family togetherness, there is one gift that is better than them all—love.

I don’t know if she got her "last best gift" but I do know this—the most expensive thing in the world is un-forgiveness. A few careless words had cost this family ten years and the precious gift of one-another. 

When we refuse to forgive we rob ourselves of memories we could have had. If there’s ever a season to forgive, it’s now. God only knows if it will be our last best gift to give someone who really needs it.

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