Nancy's last Christmas gift to me
Too much time has passed since my last post but I had to do something today.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my wife Nancy leaving this earth and heading to Heaven.
It’s a Christmas gift I will always treasure. But it’s also a Christmas gift I almost didn’t get.
But I’m so glad I did receive it because it was the last Christmas gift Nancy would ever give me.
I didn’t receive it until Feb. 8,2017, almost a month and a half after Christmas, almost three weeks before her departure for someplace better.
I can’t believe it’s been four years. It seems like just yesterday. And other times it feels like forever.
There are so many mixed emotions. Christmas of 2016 wasn’t much of a Christmas for me or my kids.
I brought Nancy to Waterman Hospital Dec. 20, 2016. We realized that when Nancy would be discharged from the hospital she wouldn’t be coming home. She’d be going to a rehab place, just like she did when she went to the hospital in June 2016.
In March of 2006 Nancy received some unnamed ugly malady that has attacked and inflamed her brain. It was labeled viral encephalitis. By the end of summer in 2006 she lost most of her sight and hearing. She did receive two cochlear implants that improved her hearing for a time. It was still a struggle.
But this is about a Christmas gift. Nancy’s Christmas gift. To me.
So, let me get on to it.
I picked it up on my way home from work, it was a Wednesday. I remembered to stop at the Village Framer to pick up something for Nancy, not knowing what it was. Sometime before Dec. 20 she had our caregiver Liz, take her to frame a Christmas gift for me. It had been forgotten during the hospital stay, though Nancy did mention it to me once.
But it was quickly forgotten.
We were reminded about it after receiving a call from the shop a few days prior to Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.
I felt compelled to get it before it was forgotten again.
I’m so glad I did, despite the tears it would bring.
Or maybe because of them.
My older daughter Becca gave Nancy a book of poster-like pictures she could write on and give as gifts.
I hope anyone who has ever received a card from Nancy can appreciate just how hard it was for her to write with her very-limited vision.
Anyway, the picture she used was a cross section of a tree with its concentric circles. On it she wrote in all caps, “God’s love for us – Loyal.”
Time for a little background.
Earlier, I came across the Hebrew word “chesed,” while studying the Bible.
The “C” is silent and it’s pronounced with a hard “H” sound.
I can’t remember why I investigated the word but I’m glad I did. It’s the type of encouraging word or verse I’ve tried to share with Nancy during those tough times.
And there were many of them.
I usually printed the verse on a single sheet of hard stock paper with the largest font size I could use.
This is some of what I found and printed for Nancy about chesed: CHESED can sometimes refer to kindness or mercy. It can also refer to faithfulness or loyalty. Most often it is translated as “steadfast love.”
Obviously, the definition Nancy liked the best was “Loyal.”
It describes God’s love for us.
God’s love for us is loyal. Always. Unconditional love.
But so was Nancy’s love for us. My younger daughter Emily once said that she loved fiercely.
I’ve placed the framed poster in the center of a living room wall where I can see it and be reminded of both God’s and Nancy’s chesed love for me.
I don’t know if the tears will stop every time I glance upon or ponder it. But I do know it’s also followed by a smile and much gladness.
That framed piece of art is next to another piece of art that was done especially for Nancy’s celebration of life. Becca asked a friend, Sarah Savage, to do a piece of art that said “free,” along with a cardinal feather on it. Nancy loved cardinals and she received many gifts with cardinals on it.
Then Becca messaged Sarah a day or so later and asked if she could do Chesed instead because that word means so much to her.
Sarah said yes and gave it to us and “Momma Nance,” Sarah’s words for Nancy.
I don’t think I realized it until just recently that Sarah signed the back of it.
Rick, Becca, & Emily,
I don’t need to remind you how special Nancy (Momma Nance) was. We all know and her kind soul will always be remembered as just that—kind, loving, loyal, steadfast.
You have no idea how much prayer has been poured out over this piece while I was making it.
Love you all very much,
Four years. I can’t believe it. So much time. And so little time. Yet, I feel so blessed that I was able to write many of these thoughts down as I remember Nancy.
My memory fades.
But not the memories of my bride.
Author and historian Rick Reed has been writing about Florida's Lake and Sumter counties since 1991 in The Daily Commercial, The Lake Sentinel and Lake Magazine. His Reminisce column, which looks at local history in Lake and Sumter counties has appeared in The Daily Commercial since 1998. He served as the City curator of the Leesburg Historical Museum from 2003 to 2008 and wrote the Sesquicentennial History of Leesburg in 2008, a 240-plus page book of Leesburg’s history.