The best gifts come with love attached, I said.
This Christmas, I have had some beautiful gifts – a mini IPad, some great books to read, beautiful Temple Spa and Liz Earle beauty products to encourage me to relax, my favourite perfume and some new perfumes to try on. Incense, candles and hearts to encourage my soul, and champagne and Jack Daniels and Bailey’s to celebrate the good times. All carefully and thoughtfully bought and wrapped, and I love them all.
But this year, two gifts stand out for the love attached to them, because they were so uniquely designed for me. The first came from my husband Lee, and he handed it to me early, saying he felt I should open it when it was quiet.
A stiff white envelope must mean a calendar. Yet I’d already bought one for 2013, so it seemed a strange gift. Then I opened it, and promptly burst into tears, as I was looking at a copy of the programme from the 1977 Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. Lee knew that I was proud of the fact my dad had led the UDR Pipe Band down the steps for the first time they had ever paraded there, as their Pipe Major. And he knew we had tried to track some momento of this event down, without luck – but he had managed to do it for us. With tears in his eyes, he wrapped me in his arms, and I stood in the presence of love.
Exactly twenty years before. that, just before the McMillan nurses came in to help my mum at night, having battled bowel, liver, bone and brain cancer for too long, somehow my dad managed to get downstairs for a few hours on Christmas Day. His leg had been amputated and he was now blind (but, as he reminded the brash young doctor visiting him, he was NOT deaf). He was unable to walk and was very, very ill – but those hours were precious; holy.
We do not know not where he got the strength to spend those special last hours with his family. We did not know he was to leave us just over two weeks later, and it was to be many years before I stopped being angry that he had “given up” and then stopped being angry at myself for not allowing him to go freely when he needed to go. For he was ready to go. Looking back, I know all of us are grateful for what was one of our best Christmas Day’s ever – a day when we all sat in the presence of love.