Originally published Dec 2019 in Grief Digest and Sharing Magazine for Share – Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support
The hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season is upon us, and it is no new news that our culture and society tends to focus much attention on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. The stress and pressure of shopping for the perfect gifts accompanied by over-spending is, frankly, exhausting. There is an awkward presence, between the polarities of greed and generosity, which fills the air as we struggle to find our balance and peace in the true meaning of Christmas. Somehow, somewhere, at some time, we moved away from simplicity. We have forgotten that the greatest gifts of all lie within the very essence of whom we are.
The valuable gifts we each possess are easy to overlook. It is difficult for us to see our true selves and believe we have something worthwhile to offer. We each, do indeed, have unique and special gifts that no one else in this world can duplicate. There is only one You. And You are needed to take your place in the beautiful canvas of life called humanity. Our gifts do not need to be deemed grand or extravagant. They do not need to be on the front page of Fortune 500, appear on the New York Times best-seller list, or make headline news. What if your gift is packing groceries? Shoveling snow? Walking dogs? What about the gift of kindness…, the gift of being a good listener…, the gift of organization…, or even humor!? These are all precious gifts that we can extend to one another. They are not only deeply treasured and appreciated, but needed. Being You is enough. Sometimes more than enough!
Let me share a story….
Many years ago, in May of 2001, I experienced a very traumatic, life-changing event. At full-term pregnancy, I delivered a stillborn baby girl. I found myself in the depths of the most agony, grief, and heartache ever imagined. The first person to rush to my hospital bedside was a woman named Rose. She was a lovely, caring, and wise woman who supervised a large women’s group in which I participated. Although not a close and intimate friend, I found comfort in her guided presence. She was intent on giving me two pieces of advice that day. The 1st … ‘There is no greater loss than the loss of a child.’ True.
The 2nd … ‘People will say stupid things.’ Also true. These simple words from Rose were a gift in itself and enabled me to maintain a high level of strength, grace, and composure as I navigated the coming days. When I found myself subjected to many failed attempts of sympathy and understanding, the voice of Rose would usher in. She taught me that most people were just trying to come to terms with such a traumatic situation and process their own shock and confusion as to why such a thing would happen. At the same time, these same people were also looking for a way to somehow relate to what I was going through by reflecting on their own experiences.
Earlier that same spring, just shortly before my due date, we hired an ordinary, down-to-earth, hardworking man to trim the hedges and bushes around our home. He wasn’t necessarily educated. He wasn’t necessarily polished or eloquent. And by the look of his rusty old pick-up truck, not necessarily ‘rich’. But he did a fantastic job trimming bushes at a fantastic price. Last he saw, I was a very pregnant expectant mother. Months passed and in the fall, he knocked on our front door. He was driving by and noticed our hedges could use a little sprucing up. He stopped unannounced to ask if we would like this work done. There was a shift in conversation as he quickly remembered we had been expecting a baby. Excitably, he exclaimed, “Hey! The last time I was here you were getting ready to have a baby! What did you have? A boy or a girl?!” Ugghhhh – my heavy heart sank to the big black hole of grief. Here we go again …, I thought to myself. It was a common question I had uncomfortably answered many times by now. I took a deep breath and prepared to peel back the Band-Aid on a still fresh wound. I gently replied, “We had a baby girl. But she died.” His face dropped. He looked to the floor of the porch of where we stood. I could see that this simple man, who was already short on words, quickly could find none. He was stunned. There was a rise of awkwardness as the air became tense. After a few, but long, seconds he said “Boy…, I’ve had some tough times as well. My back sure has been bothering me a lot lately … having all sorts of trouble,…” and he reached to place his hand on his lower back while stretching and moaning. Really?! You’re comparing your sore back to the death of my child?! But as quickly as I was offended, I heard a subtle whisper of the wise words shared by my dear friend Rose …”People will say stupid things“… and grace took over.
I told him that I wasn’t sure if it was in the budget to have any work done and that I would check with my husband and let him know. We said a blundering goodbye and I closed the door, still dismayed by what had just taken place. Moments later, I was walking through the house when something out the window caught my eye. It was him. Trimming bushes! The nerve!! Did he not hear that I would get back to him?! Not only had he inadequately acknowledged the painful loss of my baby girl, but had now taken it upon himself to do the work I had not approved!! I quickly scurried to the porch and loudly clarified that I had told him not to do any work that day! After my frantic attempt to stop him, he looked up and said, “oh … no … it’s ok … I’m just going to do it … there’s no charge …” I stood silent and in awe, deeply touched, and I understood. This simple ordinary man, who had been gifted with the not-so-desirable art of trimming bushes, gave to me the greatest gift of all. He did not have the words to heal my broken heart. He did not have the capacity to truly understand my pain. But he gave all that he had, all that he could, through his skillful talent as a bush-trimmer and gave of himself in a pure expression of love and compassion. That gesture, above any other gesture that has been extended to me, meant more to me than anything else anyone has ever done. I do not remember his name. We have long since moved away from the area. He has no idea the impact that his simple offering made on me and to this day, still cherish.
So as you worry, fret, and frantically search for the perfect gifts this holiday, do not underestimate the power you have by being Simply You. You and Your gifts are of value. They are needed. ‘Tis the season to pause, reflect, and take inventory of the gifts that you have within. Acknowledge them. Honor them. Celebrate them. Wrap them up with love and give them back to the world.