There are those special people that are placed in your life to bring light and life which influenced or continues to influence the individual you are today. One of those special people for me, whom I tend to think about more often around the holiday time, is my Grandmother Ross. Christmas time was so special to her. She attempted every year to really outdo herself, though the dozens and dozens of homemade cookies, candies and the amount of Scandinavian ornaments on the tree. She made this season truly special. It was later in life that I would begin see what I adored about my Grandmother; it was her gift of presence.
I spent many nights and weekends with my Grandmother Ross. She was like a second mother to me. She frequently brought me to church, I would run errands with her, as well as help her with laundry. The simplest of tasks turned into life lessons I would cherish to this day. Growing up in a single parent household, my mom was finishing her degree and often worked two jobs to make ends meet. My grandmother stepped in to help and make sure I was taken care of; she was there, present.
With this coveted time together, I was naturally positioned to learn from her and learned how to serve. I helped her deliver what she was known for in her community which were platters and tins full of cookies and candies and beautifully crocheted afghans handmade and hand delivered. Year after year she demonstrated her love through action and was present for the less fortunate.
Prior to the days of her holiday delivery, Grandma Ross spent weeks planning out making her array of cookies and candies and crocheting. She had hundreds of folks that she delivered to. Her reputation of excellence was to be upheld. From peanut brittle to rocky road, to Mexican wedding cakes to spritz and Scandinavian treats, you name it she made it. She even managed to remember special requests year after year and would keep it all organized in her little coin purse. I was fortunate to see this process from start to finish and the best part as her help, I was her secret “test taster”! Of course meeting my approval for delivery! During my grandmother’s “down time” she was busy crocheting patters in afghans, quilts, scarves and hats that she would donate to churches for auctions to raise money for the church and Lutheran Schools. The joy of giving filled her with purpose. She had love to share in her holiday delivery season.
Christmas time was extra special for my Grandmother Ross. Not many knew, but it was at this time many years ago she lost her fifth daughter named Carol. I could only imagine revisiting that event year after year. However she made a choice! Instead of dwelling in the pain of loss, she turned to give, she was present for her loved ones. She was courageous to look outside of her loss, to serve her friends and family. Not only being reminded of the passing of her daughter, my grandmother,often struggling and in pain, had to walk with a cane during the cold month of December. Neither of these two challenges stopped her. She was determined to bring her gifts never expecting or accepting anything in return. She never missed an opportunity to hug or an opportunity to say “I love you”. It was what she was known for.
The beauty in all of this was, my Grandmother truly didn’t need a holiday to share her homemade treasures. Her life, being that example of service, was this amazing gift that was present all year. In fact, we would make our rounds to churches, shut-ins, nursing homes and hospitals many times throughout the year. Visiting and sharing with individuals who had no family or hope. It taught me how to look beyond your need for the moment, and share whatever you have.
When I look back on the many years I was fortunate to help deliver my grandmother’s homemade gifts, I have always thought that she was the richest woman I’ve known. She taught me something so invaluable; presence. The time she spent baking and crocheting, all to be given away. The time she spent delivering across the Twin Cities metro area and then taking the time to chat and encourage with whom she delivered to was priceless. She may have been on a fixed income, however you would have never known it by how much she gave. She was a servant and through her service and presence you could feel the love of God!
Presence involves your time, and when you look at it is the most valuable thing we have to give. To my grandmother, there was always an opportunity to give, because someone has less. Always an opportunity to walk in love, because someone may feel unloveable. How we can learn from this 5’4″ woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer? My grandmother removed the excuses that kept her from sharing with others. She sought to be present with loved ones and the less known. She knew she had much to give and gave what she had.
There are people around us, now, who are looking for our presence. Looking forward to our time. That time maybe a phone call, a visit, a moment. Our presence is valuable more valuable than we may ever know! You may not have a big cookie and candy production, but we are all given the same 24 hours so we have time and can make time. We can make time by creating memorable moments, by being present with friends and family. This presence will carry impact for a lifetime! Our presence will be the greatest gift!