During the Christmas season it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. In addition to the gift purchasing, wrapping, tree decorations and outside lights to put up there are the Christmas cards to send. You might think twice this year about actually sending them. We debate all the reasons, as we try to get everything else accomplished, why the card thing could just be put aside- just this year.
I had a personal reminder this week of the importance of reaching out to others by sending cards. For those who have read my book you know that I am a Hospice volunteer. I have had the good fortune of being with my special person for 1 and 1/2 years. It is rare to have a patient last this long once they are officially determined to be hospice eligible. However, for this length of time we have visited weekly, discussing the books she reads, and I take her lunches that she can only dream about since she has been home bound for 2 years. Can you imagine literally not leaving your house or room for this length of time? And yet she does so with acceptance and grace. At 91 years old her mind is still sharp. It is her body that has given up the go. She basically lives in a 14 x 14 area that has become her entire life. She can no longer write the letters herself but loves to receive cards in the mail. It is her only contact to the outside world that she once knew.
Our job as Hospice volunteers is to bring a little joy to our patients during whatever time they have left on this earth. A big part of that is to keep them connected with others so they, temporarily, can forget about their situation or the inevitability of what they will soon be facing.
Just like last year, I asked her who she would like to send a Christmas card and letter to this month. She was able to give me a list after working on it for a week and then a few ideas verbally on what to say in her Christmas letter. Coming home I transcribed her thoughts and printed it on cheerful Christmas stationary then began addressing the envelopes. To my utter surprise she had 18 different people on her list for cards! She will probable receive 15 or so in return. That means that she will have 15 opportunities to read, remember the special memories of these folks and smile as she momentarily touches the outside world from her hospital bed. That may sound like a small thing to some of us but to her it will make this season, no doubt her last, something to remember. She has said to me many times that she can’t figure out why she is still here. What lessons does she have yet to learn, she questions. I think it is not her lessons to learn but her lessons to teach others, including me.
The next time I become harried with the things to accomplish during the holiday seasons I will remember with gratitude the fact that I can still do them. Christmas cards and letters will no longer seem like a chore to accomplish but something to be done that may make someone smile who receives it. All because of this special lady.
Regardless of our age, when the student is ready the teacher comes along. I was grateful I was reminded of the importance to keep this practice going. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we lived to 91 and still had 18 people to send and receive cards from? It is humbling and significant to think about how this woman has change people’s lives and continues to do in her ninth decade! She is a reminder of what the season is about, reaching out and touching the lives of others and warming their hearts.
As you check off items on your ‘to do’ list this week remember that there are others who really are interested in what you have been up to this year. They do want to stay connected in your life. Whatever form of communication you choose it will bring a smile to them as they remember a special memory of something you did together. As you read their messages in return you will also smile, remember and be grateful to have them in your life. It is funny, life is just like that, what goes around comes around.
Have a great few days!