A Bittersweet Christmas Gift

Sitting in the recreation room of The Caring Center, I scanned the faces of the residents who were waiting for the kindergarten caroling event to begin— until I caught sight of a familiar set of eyes. “Miss Geneva” looked much older than the last time we visited. She was already an old saint when I first met her, and I was a young pastor’s wife. Back then, it seemed disrespectful to call her by her first name without adding the “Miss” in front of it, so that moniker stuck through the decades of our relationship.

On this day, Miss Geneva’s face was clean but without makeup, hair a bit rumpled, and an outfit that reminded me of pajamas rather than the stylish pantsuits she wore in her former life. Her sweatshirt boasted a large poinsettia in celebration of the season. I watched her staring blankly, as though she didn’t even see the eighteen little ones lined up in their bright Christmas garb — anxious to sing loudly the joy of the season to these precious souls living in their final season. But she wasn’t entirely gone. Her worn sneaker began to tap softly and keep time with the rhythm of “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

As the caroling came to an end, and the little group finished applauding, Mrs. Douglas announced that the children were going to do a Christmas craft with any of the residents that would like to join them. Metal chair legs screeched on the tile floor as people began moving and making their way to the long tables where little pieces of snowmen lay waiting for fingers to assemble them into a simple one-dimensional Christmas ornament. I made my way to Miss Geneva.

“Miss Geneva, you are good at making Christmas crafts — you’ve made so many through the years!” Her eyes looked into mine without recognition and she asked, “I did?”

I reassured her that she certainly did; in fact, she had given some of her beautiful creations to me. My mind returned to yearly Christmas parties that she and her husband organized that took months of preparation. Miss Geneva always brought each pastor’s wife a special hand-made gift. Sometimes it would be a Christmas decoration like a door hanger with bells, or a quaint wall hanging with a meaningful Scripture. The young pastors’ wives that received those gifts each year knew that Miss Geneva had poured her heart and prayers into each one that she created. She worked on the gifts all year long and we cherished them.

I led Miss Geneva to the chair beside my little granddaughter, who was already working on putting together her snowman, and introduced them. “Esther, this is Miss Geneva, she’s been a friend of mine for many years.” Esther smiled as Miss Geneva fingered her blond hair and told her how pretty she was. As I stood between these two, it occurred to me that there was probably at least seventy-five years separating them.

Esther was quickly piecing together the snowman’s hat and face while I bent over to help Miss Geneva get started. She held the piece of hat in her hand without knowing where to stick it, as I pointed to the top of her snowman’s head. She kept pulling off his carrot nose and asking, “Like that?” or “What’s this for?” I looked at those frail hands, unable to assemble the simple little pieces in front of them, and the pain went deep.

I didn’t know when I left the house that morning that I would incur another loss. But seeing Miss Geneva, at Christmas of all times, the season when we enjoyed her hospitality and generosity for so many years, unable to do what I was watching my little one quickly accomplish — brought another tangible evidence of the frailty of life. I walked to the other side of the table so I could face these two and asked them to smile for a picture. Esther leaned in close to Miss Geneva, and they smiled together as though they were old chums. I fought tears.

The sweet, but poignant moment clicking their picture brought into focus how quickly it all passes: the young girl, beside the elderly woman who no longer remembers me, but who, not too long ago, was a vibrant young girl herself.     

Miss Geneva doesn’t remember me, but I remember her. I remember her sacrifice, her devotion to her Savior, and her commitment to serving those who served in ministry. In The Caring Center’s recreation room that morning, there were probably many “former” success stories and accomplished individuals with heroic accounts of their own. But, although she may not be noticed by many in the world, or even in that facility, Miss Geneva, in her bright Poinsettia sweatshirt and sweat pants, is a true heroine of the faith.

The God of the universe knows her and cares for her. One day, probably soon, He will give her a royal welcome home. I’m grateful for another Christmas with her, and rather than giving me a handmade creation of hers, this time, getting to be with her and remember our many Christmas celebrations together was my Christmas gift from her.

May you and your family receive (and share) much joy this season. And remember, our time here is short. It won’t be long until we all are called home and into the joy of our Master.

[box]And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

(Luke 2:1 –11; Matthew 25:21)[/box]

Dear Friends, your prayers are a tangible means of God’s grace in our lives. If you are new to the blog, and unaware of what we’re walking through and how we need your prayers, I hope you’ll read this post from the archives. Even though I’m unable to respond to your comments, I do read every one. For those who share prayer needs, I lift those to the Father and am so grateful to be entrusted with your prayer request. I love to hear from you, so please continue to leave your comments knowing that they matter.


  • Gail

    This is so beautiful and I am grateful for it as a way to encourage older ones of their worth when they still understand yet still feel so worthless! Thank you! May the Lord bless you and keep you. I know your lives have a glorified his name. Have a blessed Christmas!

  • Charlotte Sanchez

    Thank you! Great reminder to be thankful for everyday and treasure every moment. Merry CHRISTmas! God bless you.

  • Rebecca Einwechter

    Thank you Kim! A timely reminder for me, as my 90 yr old mother in law lives with me. The challenge increases with her memory loss…My prayers and thoughts are with you and LeRoy! Praying for healing, health, strength, wisdom in all your trials. A Blessed Christmas to you both!

  • Kristi Barefoot

    Your video shown in 2010 profoundly changed my marriage. I loved this blog today and memory of my own ‘miss geneva’ I pray as you care for your Leroy. Thank you for your ministry thru the years.

  • Sherry Landon

    Such a blessing you received from Miss Geneva, and she you! Merry Christmas to you and Bro. LeRoy. Still praying for you both daily.

  • Donna Doverspike

    Kim and LeRoy,

    I continue to pray for your strength,health and complete healing. I pray God gives you the wisdom you need in all situation you face and the peace only he can give.

    Merry Christmas

  • Michele Morin

    What a beautiful gift YOU are giving to Miss Geneva–the precious gift of remembering her as she was and carrying with you the gratitude for her life even after she has forgotten it herself.