My great-grandmother, or Nana as we lovingly called her, lived to the amazing age of 95 (though one of her sisters made it past 100!). She was a mother, school teacher, and so much more. There was so much history wrapped up inside her head and her body.
Even as her body began to show the years she’d walked this planet, she never stopped amazing me. Whether it was playing Bridge with her girlfriends or making her own adventures, Nana found ways to stay active until the very end. She always took the time to look her best, wearing skirts and a lovely necklace or set of pearls even to the most casual of family gatherings. Nana was absolutely a gem and cornerstone of every family gathering.
Every year without fail, Nana gave the same presents at Christmas time. For each great grandchild, a book with a handwritten message in the front. For each grandson, a pair of dress socks. The list goes on, but you get the point; her gifts were incredibly predictable. And, sure, maybe dress socks aren’t the most meaningful gift. But those handwritten messages in our books? Those came from the heart.
That wasn’t all that came from the heart with Nana, though. Because, really, her presence at the holidays meant so much more than the physical gifts she brought.
I can still see Nana, sitting in a chair in my aunt’s basement. I can still hear her peaceful, warm voice. Unlike most older people who always asked me who I was dating or if I’d had my first kiss, I remember her old school teacher side coming out as she asked me about my academic performance and college plans. She fully supported my dreams of being a music teacher, though she really tried to make a case as to why I should attend the University of Michigan because she believed their marching band was the best.
Nana gave us so much wisdom in her time here on Earth. She showed me that, even in old age, you could be happy and enjoy every day of your life. Her memory was remarkable despite her age, and she could even manage to participate in jokes and dramatic acts from time to time during our family’s annual “birthday bash.”
I think the most important part of Nana that I’ll always carry in my heart, though, is that the presents never really matter. It’s simply the thought that counts. Because I’ve realized that Nana knew the true gift of the holidays and all year long: the real present is our presence here on this planet and how we choose to spend that time.
So, as you settle into the new year, hold those you love dearly close in your hands and in your heart. Take time to sit and listen, to make memories, to share every moment you can. The real gifts of Christmas and throughout the year that you’ll always carry in your heart is the memories you make that are built upon love. Those were always Nana’s best gifts: her presence and her love.