The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Gran's Christmas Gift To Her Family

By Sara Lee McGraw Waller © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

The snow was falling gently, covering the lawn, the telephone wires and the limbs on the old oak tree in the front yard. The rooftops on all the houses looked like they were covered by a big white blanket.

Julia Trenton and her husband, Stan, had just brought in the Christmas tree. Bobby and Betsy, their teenage twins were following them, singing Jingle Bells. Tonight they would trim the tree. Christmas was only a week away.

Julia's thoughts were rather sad. This was the first Christmas her mother would be away on Christmas Day.

Gran, as everyone called her, was in Mocking Bird Nursing Home, slowly dying of cancer.

Julia and Stan had cared for her at home until she needed around-the-clock nursing.

It was just a matter of time. The doctors said she might not live until Christmas Day.

The trimming of the tree was not the jubilant affair it usually was.

"Gran had always been the lively one of the party. She made everything fun," Betsy said.

"Suppose we take her a table tree and decorate it just for her and give her the presents we bought for her. We will make tonight her Christmas Eve," Julia told the others.

After they had trimmed the tree at home, they set out for the nursing home. They had the small tree, its decorations and the gifts for Gran.

When they arrived the nurse told them, "She may not know you are here, but we have everything ready for you to trim her tree."

"Gran, this is Betsy, Mom, Dad, and Bobby are here too," Betsy said as she kissed the cheeks of the dear old lady.

Gran did not move an eye lid. They finished trimming the tree and they opened her gifts; A warm robe and cuddly bedroom shoes.

She never moved or gave a sign she heard them.

Out in the living room someone was playing Christmas Carols on the piano and everyone was singing, some of the patients louder than others.

Julia, Stan, Betsy and Bobby said, "Merry Christmas, Gran. We love you."

Stan said he could have sworn he saw a smile on Gran's face when they finished saying, "We love you."

They silently left the room just as the patients were singing "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Outside the door a nurse was waiting for them. She held an envelope in her hands. She told them Gran had asked her to write this letter before she became so weak.

They thanked her and waited until they were home to read it.

It read:

"Dear Julia, Stan, Betsy and Bobby,

Since I was unable to get out and do any Christmas shopping I have asked Nurse Kay to write this letter as my gift to you.

First, let me say I love you. No one ever had a sweeter daughter, a nicer son-in-law, or a more precious set of grandchildren than I have.

Julia, the day they placed you in my arms for the first time was the happiest day of my life. My darling daughter, you have brought much happiness to me through the years.

For you, Stan, I'm so glad my daughter married you. You have been a good husband to her, the best father for my grandchildren and the best son-in-law.

Betsy and Bobby, no one in the whole world could have any sweeter grandchildren than I have in you. From the day you were born and I looked into those precious faces of yours I really knew what love is all about.

As I watched you grow from a baby until now - two fine teenagers, I've been so proud of you.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas. Do not grieve for me. I am going to a wonderful place where there is peace and love.

My gift to you is the love I have for you and to thank you for making me so happy.

Love always,


Gran was laid to rest the day after Christmas Day. They said good-by to her body but her spirit will always be a part of their lives.

Happy New Year, Gran.