Christmas music was playing in the background. A tall Christmas tree adorned with colorful lights and fine decorations graced the living room next to the fireplace. Families and friends walked up and down the halls, visiting their loved ones. It was a wonderful day in the nursing home. Everybody looked blissful.
“I’m looking for Loraine Smith,” a man stated as he approached the receptionist.
“Beautiful flowers!” the receptionist exclaimed. “We will give them to her.”
Ms. Smith and a few other residents of the nursing home received flowers for Christmas. Christmas gifts glowed under the magnificent tree. The Christmas party for the residents was to take place that afternoon.
The residents’ pain and discomfort seem to magically alleviate during the Season, I mused, as I noted the number residents with chronic pain who no longer seemed to complain.
The celebration and the soothing atmosphere made their aches go away. Ms. Garner was one of those residents. She was new to the facility, and although being in a nursing home was not something she wanted, she had adjusted fairly well to her new living arrangements. Ms. Garner had accepted the fact that her health had deteriorated to the point that her daughter, Lisa, couldn’t take care of her at home.
Ms. Garner was glad that Lisa came to the facility to visit daily. But most importantly, Lisa brought her four year-old little girl, Samantha, with her to see grandma every time. Ms. Garner loved spending time with the little Samantha. On a normal day we’d hear Samantha’s cute voice echoing down the hall: “Grandma! Grandma!” as she ran toward her room. Ms. Garner’s face would light up, while she waited for Samantha to run into the room to be snatched up and embraced in a hug. Ms. Garner had to warn Samantha often about not running down the hall, and to watch out for the wheelchair foot pedals.
“I don’t want you to trip over the foot pedals” Ms. Garner repeated often.
Samantha seemed to care less about the warning. All she had in mind was seeing her grandma and to tell her about her daily adventures with “Shadow,” her black kitty cat.
“Do you miss Shadow?” Samantha asked her once.
“I do. But I know you are taking good care of him.” Ms. Garner replied, with a hint of sadness that she gently veiled with a smile.
The Christmas party started. Ms. Garner seemed content with Lisa and little Samantha sitting next to her. A choir from a local church sang delightful Christmas carols. Santa Claus walked around, greeting and hugging everybody which amused Samantha tremendously. That—and the pastries being passed around on green and red trays which she helped herself to freely.
“Samantha, you've eaten too many cookies already!” Lisa exclaimed as she caught her reaching for another treat.
“Let her have one last cookie; there’s plenty,” Ms. Garner interceded, hugging little Samantha who had now sat on grandma’s lap.
The Christmas presents were passed around. Samantha helped her grandma open her gifts. Clothing, a bed throw, a set of lotion and perfume, and a stuffed animal were piled on a chair as Samantha ripped off another shiny gift wrap.
The Christmas party was over. Lisa and little Samantha were getting ready to leave.
“Samantha, aren’t you forgetting about a present you brought for grandma?” Lisa asked with an intriguing look, arching her left eyebrow.
“Huh?” Samantha looked, puzzled.
“Look in your pocket,” she reminded her.
“Oh!” Samantha exclaimed loudly, as she dug in her winter coat and produced a black dusty rock, almost of the size of her fist.
“Grandma, this is for you!”
“Ah, a rock!”
“No, grandma, it’s a pet rock, Shadow’s brother!” Samantha placed the rock in Ms. Garner’s shaky hand. Her gentle fingers, afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, embraced the rock with tenderness and love.
“Thank you, my darling...” Tears rolled down her face. “This is the most precious Christmas gift I’ve ever received!”