Christmas 2010

“Where is everybody going?” my 91 year old mother-in-law asked, her forehead furrowed.  “And why are they in such a hurry?” 

What a profound question, I thought.  Where is everybody going, and why are we racing as if the world will crumble if we slow down?  For a woman who dropped out of seventh grade to work on the farm and help raise her siblings, she had loads of wisdom.  But then again, wisdom and education don’t necessarily reside in the same person.  What would  happen if we slowed down and re-evaluated what is most important? 

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her gnarled fingers and thought of the years Dorothy picked sugar beets to help feed the family.  Those same hands milked cows and clutched the reigns of horses as she drove the horse and buggy to town.  The hands with a rich, colorful history.

I was driving Dorothy to Top Foods for candy to turn her kitchen into a gingerbread house mini-factory.  The store showcases dozens of glass columns from floor to ceiling filled with candy of every shape, size, and color.  Dorothy magically transformed it into roofs, windows, siding, chimneys, sidewalks, and fences for her little gingerbread masterpieces. Then she turned tiny toy babies into snow-suited kids with matching hats riding sleds and ice skating outside the houses.  She gave Christmas magazines a run for their money.  The end result melted peoples’ hearts as they slipped into the glorious winter wonderland created by the heart and hands of Dorothy Michehl. 

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They sat soaking in silence, gazing at the glittery Christmas tree. He, with his arm around his mother, who no longer could speak. Alzheimer’s robbed her of many things, including her speech. Together, like I have seen them many times before, soaking in the silence of love.   

I walked down the hall into Dorothy’s room at the lovely adult family home, where she now receives hospice care at the age of 95.  I sat beside her as she slept, noticing her hands resting against her cheek and pillow.  The beautiful, gnarled, arthritic hands that once created a lovely garden.  Bridges, a pond, a small waterfall, and a natural stream kept the hundreds of flowers and bushes company through the years outside her simple home.  The same hands that managed a private food bank for fifty people out of her own home, which is why she received an award for Volunteer of the Year.  Such beautiful hands that loved well for close to a hundred years. 

Outside her room, I heard people laughing, which reminded me of Dorothy’s hearty laugh.  I remembered when I was in graduate school and my sister-in-law, Joan, visited from Chicago.  She asked me what subjects I was studying and I mentioned several, including Sexuality in Marriage.  After we started the conversation, I apologized to Dorothy because I thought she might feel uncomfortable.  She said, “How do you think I ended up with four kids?!”   

After reminiscing for a while, I realized she would probably sleep most of the day and got up to leave. I quietly squeezed one of her beautiful hands.  I walked down the hall and said goodbye to the man and his mom, still sitting near the Christmas tree.  His sacrificial love reminded me of the sacrificial love of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  He came to earth, wrapped in humanity and later died on a rugged cross to pay the price for our sins.  He is the reason for true peace, joy, and for this glorious season. 

I pray that we all stop and reflect on Dorothy’s profound wisdom:  “Where is everybody going, and why are they in such a hurry?”  May you have the gift of sitting in silence as you gaze at your Christmas tree, thinking about where you are going and if you’re moving too fast. 

May you have a glorious Christmas!

Check out my blog at  Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit

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