Would You Rather Wednesday: Presents or Presence?

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Ready for some philosophizing? Shh. Don’t tell my husband I used that term–his heart rate might escalate.

Well, I’ve noticed–and you probably have too–that life is quite cyclical.
Boom. You’re welcome.
But really, we’re born, we live, we die. And all of the in between is pretty predictable. Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun and he was right. Solomon might not have had an iPad, but I’m fairly sure he had the chronological equivalent.
It seems like we all sort of go through the same phases together, near the same time. When I got engaged, everybody was getting engaged. There was a steady stream of weddings for about two years.
Same thing when I got pregnant. Suddenly everyone was pregnant. And while I’d like to think of myself as a trendsetter, I am not so foolish as to think I can push my peers into each phase of life.
Especially this phase. Suddenly, everyone is dying. I don’t want to be morbid, but really, this is what’s going on in my life right now.
I know that people are born and die every second of every day. But how is it that suddenly multiple people in my world are passing?
It’s been a heavy season. In just a short time I’ve lost three people who I knew since childhood. 
Mr. Brawner–the quiet, kind, and generous dad of my friend, Johnny. He and his wife paid for my whole family to go to Disneyland when I was in sixth grade. He was a sweet man–and his blue eyes twinkled. I remember thinking that as a little girl.
Mr. Trone–my junior high history teacher, and dad to two of my school friends. He taught me how to outline my notes, and put up with my badgering his son from fifth grade to senior year. I remember him shaking his head a lot–covering his smile with his hand, and attempting a gruff voice. I realize now that he was constantly stifling his laughter.
And Tirzah. My friend–my family. I grew up with her and watched her brave life with a burden bigger than anything I’ve ever had. She had a rare skin disease that ultimately challenged her life with melanoma. I got to see her one last time–of course it wasn’t enough. What’s enough? When I left her, I turned around–one last time. We both knew it was the last time we’d see each other on this side of heaven. She had tears in her eyes, and I did too.

It’s heavy. It sits on my chest every day–the loss of these people. And there are others–people I don’t know personally, but who are on my radar.

Is everyone suddenly dying? Will it stop? Will it ever get easier?

I guess the answer is “no.” A clanging, resounding NO.

But it isn’t without hope. There truly is a reverberation of promise–of expectancy. I WILL see these people again. They ARE with their Savior. And others are STILL here.

What now?

More than anything this year I’ve learned to treasure time. When I lose someone all of those times I had with them are gathered like a blanket around me. They comfort me, warm me, and ease some of the pain. Those funny memories cut through the tears and I’m able to laugh. The inside jokes are immortalized and worth more than any heirloom I might value.

Why wait to cherish a memory until someone is gone? Why do we do this to ourselves? “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I hate that expression. I refuse to let that characterize me anymore.

I’m going into this holiday season with a definitive plan to cherish each moment with my family. I love presents more than most people. Truly, gift giving is my “thing.” My love language. But the presence of loved ones is just so much more valuable to me these days.

So here’s a “would you rather” for you:

Would you rather give your sister a pretty scarf or spend an afternoon with her at Starbucks?

Would you rather buy your dad a baseball cap or go with him to a sporting event?

Would you rather buy your spouse new shoes or have a romantic walk on the beach?

Would you rather have your children anticipate twenty Christmas presents or anticipate a calendar loaded with special times with different family members?

Here’s the real clincher: would you rather have spent last Christmas going to that movie you talked about going to with Tirzah or just stay home and clean up the aftermath of a bunch of presents?

Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the movie together. It was True Grit, and being a John Wayne fanatic Tirzah was the quintessential person to see it with. That was just last Christmas.

I’m doing things different this Christmas. How about you?

10 thoughts on “Would You Rather Wednesday: Presents or Presence?

  1. hilljean

    Em, you KNOW you are a HUGE part of what God is doing in my life. Love you.

    Reply
  2. hilljean

    OMG your comments seriously rock my world. Thank you so much! While your kids might not be too thrilled at first–they have the potential to take more joy than anyone in the true Christmas spirit. This post was the culmination of many hard lessons for me this year. I hope that I can coach my kids to think like this before they’re my age. But alas, we will always be learning and need refining. Truly, thank you for reading!

    Reply
  3. hilljean

    Beautiful post Hillary! It brought tears to my eyes and is definitely something I can relate to. It is definitely much more important to be present with someone than to just give presents…a timely reminder, thanks.

    Reply
  4. hilljean

    Thank you, Keri. I think we can all relate to loss–and if we haven’t yet, we will soon. Christmas time just drives it home more than anything.

    Reply
  5. hilljean

    Hi Suzanne! Thank you for reading. Yes, lots of loss in the family ???? We really do all need to cherish each moment. I think cherishing requires that we be intentional with our time. I’m currently exploring different ways we can spend the holidays “cherishing” each other rather than wasting time. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  6. hilljean

    Hilary this was a beautiful post and touched me as well as you well know we too have lost many family members one after another. Started with close friends ourage about 10 years ago! Then Ricks: Grandpa Don, Grandma Maria, His Mom, my Mom, and Grandma Wilson, My Grandma Sherwood, and the many losses before these amongest was Grandpa Johnnie and 2 of my cousins. You are right on track with your blogg. It is very hard to let go and hoping that you will be able to continue the memories for the next generation. Thank you for your words of encoragement, inspiration to live and charish family and time witch no matter how much time or how little should count.

    Reply
  7. hilljean

    Wow. Great blog Hill. It has been quite a last year and a half for you but as hard as it is look what God is doing in your life. Even in the midst of all this loss your love for Him is strengthened. Presence is so much better than presents. I love you.

    Reply

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