Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas with a lonely senior

Christmas has come and gone. There is so much preparation, time and money spent, and it seems like in the blink of an eye, it's over. So what are we left with after the holiday? Do you think about your gifts? The time with family and friends? The renewal of faith? The opportunity to give to those you love or to a charity? Or are you left with Christmas bills and exhaustion? I guess it's a matter of perspective, or even how things went with family over Christmas.

As you read this it causes a moment of reflection, as it does for me. Christmas was a bit different for my husband and I this year. We focused more on giving to those in need than giving to family and friends. We sponsored a 6 year old boy through World Vision who lives in Lesotho, a village in Africa. His birthday was Christmas Eve, so we purchased a goat and 2 chickens for him and his family for his birthday and Christmas gifts. We also sent the allowed 6x9" envelope...well 3 envelopes filled to the brim with toys, books, and hygiene items.

We sponsored a local family I personally know, with the help of my brother, 2 friends, and a lady I'm friends with on Facebook, but never met in person. Together we were able to help reduce some stress and make their Christmas more joyful. Amazing how these individuals kindly and freely joined us in sponsoring this family when I put a notice on Facebook! Their kindness and generosity has been sincerely appreciated by my husband and I, and the sponsored family.

With all the good feelings of giving, there were also family issues that broke my heart, and caused a lot of tears. I wonder how many families experienced the up and down emotions we experienced over the holiday's?

Most know I own Visiting Angels, Senior Homecare agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I asked my staff if any client's would be alone on Christmas, about a week or so prior. I always worry about client's who may be alone. Last year we made visits with meals and goodies to those who weren't being visited or had nowhere to go. This year it appeared all would be spend Christmas with family. Christmas Eve morning my son and Assistant Director, asked to pull together a plate of cookies and treats to take to one of our clients who would be alone for Christmas. He and his fiance' wanted to make a visit and drop the goodies off to our client on their way to his fiance's family dinner later in the day.

Of course I said yes, and filled a plate with cookies, brownies, and truffles, but that would still leave her alone for Christmas. For privacy sake I will call our client Marge. I told my son to invite Marge to our family dinner on Christmas. Sometimes the elderly are too frail to go out in the cold, or they prefer to be home, so I didn't know if Marge would accept our invitation? I knew we would have to pick her up, and take her home, since she no longer drives.

Michael and his fiance' Kaylee called us after they stopped by Marge's on Christmas Eve and said she loved the treats and accepted our dinner invitation, with excitement. We were so glad to hear Marge would spend Christmas with us and not be alone. I don't know about you, but thinking of someone spending Christmas alone is very sad to me.

Christmas morning was spent with a couple of our kids, and one grandson opening gifts, and enjoying Christmas. Later in the morning I was in tears over a family situation, and not feeling like entertaining, or much of anything else, really. I wondered how I would pull myself together for our dinner guest?

Michael and Kaylee called and said they'd be calling Marge to pick her up a bit early, as they were on their way from Kaylee's family Christmas. Michael spoke with Marge and called me back telling me how excited she was. I needed to change my mood so I wasn't inviting Marge into a sad and miserable environment. I thought about us and our home being the only place for Marge this Christmas, and my mood and focus changed to making this as enjoyable for Marge as I could.

Marge, Michael, Kaylee, and our grandson Camden arrived. It was really great to see Marge, so we spent some time in front of the fireplace chit-chatting and enjoying some hor'deurves. My husband was meeting Marge for the 1st time, and they shared some life information and lots of stories. I was learning more and more about Marge, her family, and her past. She shared some incredible stories as her previous nursing career and her brother's military feats.

We had a gratitude prayer, led by Michael, and had an enjoyable dinner together. My husband, Marge and I stayed around the dinner table chatting some more, until it started getting late, and Marge was ready to go. My husband and I took her home, got her settled in her home, and as we were leaving Marge said, "that was the most fun I ever had." I giggled and replied, "oh Marge, I know you must have had more fun than this, but I'm so glad you could join us."

So with all the preparation, time, and roller coaster emotions over Christmas, the thing that I am left with is the time spent with Marge. The ability to turn a lonely Christmas into a shared Christmas. The opportunity to get to know her better, and hear her stories. The opportunity to let one elderly person know that someone cares. I don't think Marge would understand that she was one of the best Christmas gifts I received.

The gift from God to us all was Jesus. The gift of Christmas is about giving. Giving material gifts to our family and friends at Christmas is nice, but giving the gift of family to an otherwise lonely elderly lady really felt like the gift of Christmas.

As we will all do this again, in less than 12 months, I hope you think about Marge. I hope you look for someone who would spend Christmas alone, and pay them a visit, or bring them to your home. Giving the real gift of Christmas is a wonderful gift you give to yourself.

Angil Tarach can be reached for questions or comments at, or

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