I have always loved Christmas. I love the secret planning and the scurrying in and out of the house while hiding and wrapping presents. I’ve enjoyed the music and the lights and the anticipation of sharing traditions and gifts with loved ones.
But as enjoyable as getting and giving presents is, for me, it is the most easily forgotten part of Christmas. Were it not for the list of presents I have received kept faithfully in my journal, I’m afraid I’d forget them altogether.
Gifts that I remember long afterward are not bought in a store, nor are they found under a tree or in a stocking. They are gifts of love and service, gifts of self which bring me closer both spiritually and emotionally to those I love.
Many couples tell of the strength this type of gift brings to their marriage. Such gifts are small testimonials of love that enrich and enliven the relationship.
I remember a gift my husband started giving me in the early days of our courtship. He is an avid reader of Church literature and has read and copied many articles from old Improvement Eras. Every now and then he gives me a copy of an article he finds particularly insightful, complete with his underlinings and marginal notes. I love reading these articles. Not only are they interesting and informative, but they give me a unique insight into his character.
Through sharing such gifts, couples create their own special memories. Barbara and Doug Snedecor of Beaver, Pennsylvania, enjoy a shared gift of singing. Sometimes, after all the children are in bed and they have time alone, Barbara pulls out her guitar and the two sing together. They sing the songs of their courtship as well as quiet folk melodies, ballads, popular songs, hymns, and carols—which they have never limited to the Christmas season. For them, these “songfests,” a gift of talent and shared memories, symbolize their life together—two separate voices, their intimate melody and harmony intertwining, sometimes perfectly, sometimes with hesitation, sometimes in pure noisy fun.
In McAllen, Texas, Chuck McKasson enjoys gifts of poetry. His wife, Mary, who is a poetry buff, gives him her favorite poems to read. Through the many years of their marriage she has left copies of poems around the house where he can’t miss them. The poems often contain thoughts especially designed to lift his spirits.
Mary, too, fondly recall gifts from her husband. “I am a nurse,” she says, “and have to get up early to be to work by 7:00 A.M. Chuck always gets up with me to help prepare breakfast and to fix my lunch for the day. It is not unusual for me to open my lunch box and find a little note expressing his love and wishing me a good day.”
Another couple in Woburn, Massachusetts, looks forward to the intimate letter they traditionally write to each other at Christmastime. Lee LaPierre remembers feeling especially frustrated one year when funds were tight and his wife, Dorothy, wanted “practical” gifts. Somehow the new battery he bought for her car didn’t quite express the emotion he wanted to convey. “One night,” he says, “I saw my wife working on her letter in the quiet moments before going to bed. I have always appreciated the tradition of exchanging letters, but usually forget about it until after Christmas. That year I wrote the letter before Christmas. My efforts required nearly three hours and five pages—one of the longest letters I had ever written. But the love we expressed in our letters more than made up for our lack of money.”
Some gifts are especially significant because they fill urgent need. Gary Lloyd of Klamath Falls, Oregon, such a gift to his wife, DeAnn. DeAnn tells the story: “The day before Christmas the year I was pregnant with our last child, I went in to see my doctor. He told me that if I wanted to have a successful delivery in February, I needed immediate surgery. He told me I could stay home with my family on Christmas morning, but I had to be at the hospital in the afternoon. The ride home was silent. Not only was I worried about the surgery, but I wondered who would take care of our three children during the holiday season. Gary, sensing my thoughts, told me he would take a week off work to care for the children and our home. I have always appreciated his ability to see beyond his own worries that day to lessen some of mine.”
Marcia Stornetta of Stanford, California, particularly appreciates her husband’s gift of support in helping her overcome her frequent attacks of insomnia. Each night when they go to bed, he tells her a story from his childhood.
“Listening to his stories helps me unwind and go to sleep,” Marcia says. “And I learn a lot about him as well.”
Harold and Fae Anderson of Las Vegas, Nevada, looking back on many rich years of marriage, say that the best gifts are gifts of self. “I suppose the greatest gift Fae has ever given me,” Harold says, “is the knowledge of the joy and closeness found only in family relationships. She came from a large family, and I came from a separated family and had only one sister. My wife has helped me discover the strength of families. She remembers the birthdays of our eight children and eighteen grandchildren. We all get together to celebrate at one of their homes, or we host the party at ours. It is a great tradition.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it all without his help,” Fae adds. “When the children were small, Harold made breakfast while I got the kids ready for school. And his enthusiasm is endless. When I was ready to give up, thinking this was too much, he kept me going. He finds great joy in our doing things together.”
These gifts of joy and service are not wrapped in paper or tied with ribbon. They are not bought and secreted away until just the right moment of surprise. Yet, they are the most memorable and appreciated of all gifts. They are lasting gifts—the gifts of an enduring and joyful relationship.
After reading “Love and Letters—Gifts That Last,” you might want to discuss the following with your companion:
1. Take a few minutes to recall the gifts you have given each other during the years of your marriage. Which gifts have become fond memories? Have any become traditions?
2. What type of gift does your spouse most appreciate—notes, a favorite meal, small acts of service, a listening ear? When was the last time you gave such a gift?
3. Evaluate the gifts you are giving your companion this year. What other, more lasting, gift could you give?
4. When was the last time you did something fun and unexpected to show your appreciation for your husband or wife?
5. How might such gifts be extended to other family members or friends?