A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to do something special for Christmas, something besides exchanging gifts with my family and friends. So I chose a widow in our ward and, in secret, began to take her a small gift every day of the 12 days before Christmas.
I delivered the gifts to Eleen Harris, an 85-year-old widow who always seemed cheerful and happy. Up until Christmas Eve, I had remained anonymous, but that night I couldn’t ignore the feeling that I needed to let her know who I was. Instead of setting down the package and disappearing before she could catch me, I waited for her to answer the door. She invited me into her home, where every one of my gifts sat in a perfect little row on her table. Sister Harris and I developed a friendship immediately.
From that night forward, I began scheduling time to visit Sister Harris. I cherished the hours I spent in her home, visiting in the living room or over snacks in the kitchen. We talked about school, my plans for the future, and experiences in Sister Harris’s life. The difference in our ages didn’t seem to matter, and we discovered how much we had in common.
Throughout those busy years the demands of a hectic schedule occasionally prevented me from visiting as often as I would have liked. When I returned, Sister Harris always greeted me with a playful scolding, pretending not to remember me. But I was always welcome in her home, and my absences only necessitated a need for faster talking in order to make up for lost time. Each time I visited with her I left feeling uplifted. I never heard her complain or make a negative comment. Cheerfulness was her constant companion.
Last year, Sister Harris was stricken with cancer, and after three painful weeks, she died. Our final meeting took place a few nights before her death. In the midst of her pain she expressed her gratitude for all that the Lord had given her, and then, floating in and out of consciousness, she wanted to catch up on the details of my life, just like old times.
The passing of this remarkable woman has left an ache in my heart, but the blessings I received from knowing her far outweigh any sadness I could feel at having lost her. In times of trial, the words of Sister Harris’s favorite hymn often come to my mind, “Because I Have Been Given Much I Too Must Give.” Now I try to incorporate that idea into everything I do, and perhaps touch the life of another person who will, in turn, bless my life.