For as long as I can remember, the heart of my paternal grandmother and my heart were cemented together. I think our bonding began when I was a baby and my mother had to be hospitalized for extended periods of time. Grandma watched over me and even decorated her spare bedroom in soft pinks and light lavenders. She was the mother of four strapping sons and had always wanted a little girl. Ten years before I was born her only daughter was stillborn.
I never realized just how attached I was to my grandmother until she was diagnosed with a deadly disease. After her diagnosis, Grandma was forced to move from her dream home to a small, one-bedroom apartment. In her new apartment complex, other women were experiencing the similar problems; terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study and Grandma became a faithful member. This band of prayer warriors became "kindred spirits" as they interceded for one another’s needs.
It was apparent by early November Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body was growing weaker. A few days before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs.
Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Grandma Eleanor was dying. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.
I hurried to the hospital and hovered over my grandmother's weak frame. There was a tap on her Hospice room door and an elderly woman appeared. In her arms was a brown paper grocery sack. She tiptoed to Grandma's bedside, and stooped over the metal bedrail and planted a kiss on Grandma's cheek. Grandma's dark chocolate eyes twinkled when she recognized her friend.
"Mable, how did you get here?" Grandma asked.
"Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to." Mable chuckled, "It's cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!"
"Oh Mable, you shouldn't have come out in this bitter cold."
"I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It's all right here in my bag."
Mable rummaged through her brown bag. She pulled out a bright red envelope.
"This one is from me to you, Eleanor!" She showed Grandma the card. Sunbeams splashed on the colorful card causing Mable's eyes to squint.
"Let me read it to you." Mable said,
What can I give Him poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I'd give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man, I'd do my part, I know what I'll give Him, All of my heart!
Tears glistened in Grandma's eyes as she whimpered, "Thank you, Mable."
"That's not all, Eleanor, there's more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year." Mable gushed as she pulled out a small package wrapped in previously used Christmas paper topped with a recycled, red bow.
Grandma was too weak to open her special gift. Mable handed it to me. I carefully tore the paper off the small box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a brown teddy bear holding a lacey parasol.
"Yep, it's true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year." Mable reached for Grandma's hand.
"Mable, thank you and all the other ladies for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group goodbye for me. Tell them I'll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year."
Scalding tears fell on Mable's wrinkled cheeks. "I love you, Eleanor!"
"And I love you!" Grandma closed her heavy eyelids and drifted off to sleep.
Mable reached for me. We embraced. We wept. I thanked her for her kindness to my grandmother, walked her to the door, and said goodbye.
When I returned to my grandmother’s side, I wept quietly. I realized Grandma's "home-going" would be soon. I looked at the brown teddy bear holding the lacey parasol. I reread Mable's Christmas card,
What can I give Him poor as I am?
I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best to her dying friend. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing Grandma wouldn't live until Christmas.
I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother a dear friend.
Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable's visit. My grandmother was right. She celebrated Christmas with Jesus.
Dixie Phillips began writing seasonal plays for children in 1987. These delightful programs have been published by Abingdon Press, Standard Publishing, Eldridge Publishing, Evangelizing Today's Child and Gospel Publishing House. One of Dixie's children's books, Stubby's Destiny, was awarded the 2008 Best Children's Animal Story by Books and Authors. Guardian Angel Publishing has released Angel Eyes, One Noble Journey and Baby Jesus is Missing. Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother and Stilts the Stork will be released in 2010.
Dixie also has a passion for writing God's truths for adults. She has contributed to an award-winning devotional book and has ghostwritten books on marriage, health, poetry and personal testimonies. She is currently a topical curriculum writer for Randall House. Dixie is a pastor's wife of more than 30 years. She and her husband, Paul, have four grown children and have served the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, for 28 years.
You can learn more about Dixie’s books and the Phillips’ ministry by visiting www.floydslighthouse.com.