Bella had been tugging on both Jay and I, trying to get us to listen, but we were preoccupied with getting Ompa (Jay’s father) settled into his new room at the Hospice center. Jay, my husband leaned over and placed a napkin on Ompa’s chest so he wouldn’t dribble his chocolate pudding. It was late, close to 10pm, and the measly Greek salad eaten at noon was long gone. We felt drained and tired, but happy Oma (Jay’s mother) could go home to a quiet home and sleep through the night without Ompa waking her up.
“How long do I need to stay here?” Ompa said.
“Just relax. We’ll see.” Jay replied. “Maybe if you improve we can get you set up with Hospice at home.”
“Oh okay,” he said.
I caught the worried expression cross Oma’s face.
Bella tugged on Jay’s arm again. “Daddy, I need to finish.”
“Bella, we don’t have time for you to finish. We have to go. It’s late,” Jay said.
“But, I have to.” Bella hung her head, her lip quivered.
Jay frustrated and spun towards me. “Take her. Let her finish her coloring.”
“Come on.” I put out my hand. “Ten minutes okay? We’re tired and hungry and have a drive ahead of us.”
I led her down the hallway towards the children’s room, where she’d started coloring her picture. When we entered a frail man sat watching the television in a chair. Bella glanced shyly at him before making her way to the other side of the room and sitting at the table.
“Ten minutes,” I reminded her.
She nodded and got to work. Coloring as fast as her little fingers could.
I looked back at the man, all skin and bones, a grayish tint to his skin. By the looks of him, I knew he wouldn’t be here at Christmas. He was a picture of death.
I glanced back at Bella’s colorful picture. She was trying harder to stay in the lines these days, instead of scribbling wildly across the page, her fingers held the crayon tighter, and she switched colors for different parts. The face was still blue, the hands red, but she was taking more pride in her work.
“Bells, why did you want to finish this?” I said. “You could color at home.”
She stopped coloring and glanced up at me. “It’s for Ompa Momma. It’s my gift to Ompa.”
Now, I understood why it was so important to her. It was a gift. It would be her last gift to him, albeit we didn’t know that at the time. The last of many things…our last hug…our last kiss…our last goodbye.
“I’m done.” She said beaming. “Can I go give it to him now?”
“He’s going to love it,” I said.
We wandered back down the quiet hallways towards his room. Opened doors revealed human suffering, spirits longing to be free of their crumbling shells. We reached Ompa’s room finding everyone had left except jay who stood by his father’s bed.
“Are you finished?” Jay said.
“It was for Ompa,” I said.
“Oh, why didn’t you tell me?” Jay said, picking her up.
“This is for you Ompa.” Bella thrust her artwork at him. “I made it for you.”
“Will you look at that.” Ompa smiled. “Bella, I think you’re going to be an artist, just like me, your Grandad, and your Mom.”
She beamed and kissed him before Jay set her back down.
“Thank you dear,” Ompa said. “I’m going to set it right here, so I can see it.” He placed it on his nightstand.
That night, I didn’t realize how important Bella’s gift would be because I didn’t know Ompa would become incoherent a few days later and pass away seven days after that. The gift held more value because of its timing. I learned a powerful lesson from my four- year- old girl. Don’t be so preoccupied with my surroundings that I miss the gift. Don’t be so preoccupied with the ugly things, that we miss the simple blessings right in front of us.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, we can become so preoccupied with all the beautiful wrappings of Christmas that we miss the true gift inside. We can also become disheartened by all the angry voices, turmoil, or our own personal circumstances that we’ll want to skip over the Christmas season and jump right into another work week…another year.
Yet, the fact remains darkness can never absorb light. The tiniest of lights can pierce the greatest darkness, just like Bella’s artwork brought a smile to a dying man lying in a Hospice bed a few days before Thanksgiving.
There is a gift this Christmas that can bring light to any situation in your life, the gift of a Savior, who came to conquer death– to give life– to anyone who accepts Him. May you remember to look past the wrapping and bows, to keep your hearts off the dark things of this world and on the colorful picture of a God who loves you.
May your day be filled with the light of Jesus Christ and may you recognize the daily gifts that come outside of packages.
Until next week…