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The Unexpected Christmas Gift – A Lesson Worth Living

December 20, 2012

The Gift of LoveI received an unexpected Christmas gift this week – one I could have never imagined or ever hoped for.

A good friend of my husband and I who battled cancer for five years was admitted to the Francis House in Syracuse. Understanding the Francis House provides a home and an extended family to people with terminal illnesses so they can die with dignity and experience the unconditional love of God, I knew our friend had a week to live. The news came as a shock although we knew she was still battling the disease.

Debbie was a woman who had a very large spirit and joyful personality. She was tenacious about beating the disease and not letting the disease beat her. So when we received a special invitation from her husband to join him for a surprise “celebration” at the Francis House one evening we accepted immediately. Knowing how much she wanted to see all the people she loved, he threw her one last party and invited 50 of her closest family and friends.

I’ll never forget the smile on her face and the joy that radiated from her as she entered a room full of loved ones. She had the grace and dignity to thank everyone with a powerful speech that couldn’t have been written better by Hollywood writers. Everyone had a chance to celebrate with her one more time and with each other, to say good-bye to her when she was alive and not at a funeral home, to say all the things that mattered, and to leave with a lighter heart than when they arrived.

I said to her husband as I left, “You have given everyone here one of the greatest gifts of all time – you gave us the gift of being together to celebrate her while she was still alive and to see her happy one last time.” I will always remember her in that happy moment.

Two days later Debbie passed away with her husband by her side and 50 friends very grateful for the amazing memory of her last celebration filled with pure love and friendship. It was an early Christmas present and a gift I will never forget.

The lesson that resonates with me is to live life with as much joy as you can. To take the time to tell the ones you love, what they mean to you. To celebrate the good and bad times together with those who mean the most to you. It’s truly a gift for the ages and one we must give ourselves every day of our lives.

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