Too often we get caught up in the physical gift giving process at this time of year. Endless hours spent online trying to find that perfect gift. Some of us have spent endless hours circling the parking lots at the mall.

I learned that one of the most valuable gifts one can give to another is gift of time and truly being present with one another.

My mom lived in Florida during the final years of her life. She passed away in January 2010 from Stage 4 colon cancer. We were informed in May 2009, and did not know how many months she had to live. We knew that time was short. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in 2009 were extra special, as we knew they would likely be her last.

At the time, I was working a very demanding corporate job that required significant travel. When I heard the news, I knew that I needed to spend as much time as I possibly could with her. I decided that every third week that I would fly from Texas to Florida to be with her for long weekends.

I would arrive on Friday and leave on Monday. I would get to her house to find out that she had planned a party that night for some of her friends, a party for a different group of friends on Saturday night, and a brunch on Sunday. My job was to go to the grocery store and begin preparations for the parties.

We had many celebrations during those 8 months. She clearly understood the gift of time. She wanted to spend time with her friends. They wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to spend time with all of them to see the strength of the friendships and enjoy the merriment.

A friend of mine whose mother has passed many years before made a comment to me that had incredible impact, even though it seemed so simple. “Spend as much time as you can with her. When she is gone, she is gone.”

My mom and I had many bedside chats about life and what mattered, and what did not matter. Some of the drama that was occurring in the outside world seemed so frivolous as seen through the eyes of an 81 year old woman that only had a few months to live.

Physical gifts during that Christmas 2009 were not important. The greatest gift was being in her presence and feeling her essence.

I look back fondly on those conversations and the time spent together during that concentrated eight months. For it is true and sounds so trite, but when our loved ones are gone from the earth, we miss them and our hearts ache.

There are times where I would love to have just one more conversation to ask more questions about her life or to share my recent accomplishments. I have this hole in my heart that feels like there is still so much to catch up on.

That year I gave her the gift of time. It was all she wanted. No presents required.

Who do you need to give the Gift of Time?


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