How many times have I heard or said “it’s better to give than to receive” or “it’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts”. During this season of giving gifts these things have been so fiercely on my mind.
Michael was a great gift-giver. He gave great gifts. Over the years he gave me jewelry, furs, cars, jewelry, vacations, homes, jewelry and a jewelry box (which he said he spent the rest of his life trying to fill). Did I mention jewelry? (A few days ago while watching some old home movies of Christmas 20 years ago, the kids saw Michael get up and get a box from under the Christmas tree and hand it to me. They all immediately knew from just the paper and the bow that it was the signature wrapping of one of our local jewelers.)
His gifts were always far more elaborate than I expected or would have bought for myself. One year we talked about getting a little car to leave at the beach house for when we were down there. I was thinking a little VW bug to ride along the beach highway. Michael took me to the Jaguar dealership.
His gifts were thoughtful. Like the Christmas I needed a new coat. And he bought me one. No, actually he bought me four. Four fur coats that year.
His gifts were often unexpected. Like the Christmas he told me I would be taking Christy to London and Paris the following summer.
This year there were no packages under the tree from Michael. But it wasn’t the gifts wrapped in paper and bows that were the best or most unforgettable gifts he gave me. The best gifts he gave were given daily – the things that change you over time and help you to grow into someone better than who you started out to be.
He gave me the gift of time, almost 40 years of spending time with me, listening to me and making me a priority in his life.
He gave me the gift of permission – permission to be me, without fear of losing him.
He gave me the gift of confidence by believing in me more than I believed in myself and telling me I could do things that I didn’t believe (and am still not sure) that I could do.
He gave me the gift of forgiveness when I was wrong, when I didn’t support him as much as I should or when I fell short of what could have been.
He gave me the gift of romance by making me feel loved and desired.
He gave me the gift of children – three of the most wonderful children who, in spite of our failings and shortcomings, have become three of the most awesome adults I know.
He gave me the gift of generosity by never giving just enough but always exceeding what would be expected or assumed.
He gave me the gift of laughter, which stills returns when I remember all his shenanigans and goofiness.
It’s incredible to look back at all he gave me. But I believe you cannot give what you don’t have. The reason he was able to give all these things was because he himself received these things – from his mom and dad as they raised him, but also from God who so freely gives to us out of His abundance and His love. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. (James 1:17)
So, this Christmas there were no gifts in wrapping paper from Michael. But I didn’t miss the gifts. I missed the gift-giver.