It’s true, I grew up in a Christian home that grandly celebrated Christmas. And although I felt adopted, I wasn’t. I lived in a house where every ornament was strategically placed like some kind of highly classified government bomb blueprint. My mother was an interior designer, need I say more?!
Each year there’d be beautiful stockings, perfectly wrapped packages, luscious dinner, fire in the fireplace. It was always picture perfect. Usually, we all received nearly all our want-list and often more than we could have dreamed.
One of the lessons my mother taught me, unbeknownst to her, was what I will call, ‘the three wishes’ lesson. During one year when I was an annoying teenager, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “A fur coat, a diamond ring, and a Rolls Royce.” Of course I was being sarcastic. She took me seriously. For some reason, call it love, but she really listened to me.
That Christmas I opened the first package. It was a little rabbit jacket, (don’t worry, I became a vegetarian later). The next package was a small box. It was a star sapphire ring with two diamonds on either side. Wow. I was blown. Then came a third box. I unwrapped it. On the box was a note. It read, “You now have a fur coat, diamond ring and here’s your Rolls Royce.” It was a model to put together. I was so happy. Really. So much so that here I am at fifty-one remembering it vividly. She really loved me; she heard me; she really thought the request through.
Many years later, while working in hospice, I remembered that simple three wishes question. I started asking patients that question. These little dying people would be so astounded to have such a question given to them. I took the lesson from my mother that the goal was not to give someone something you couldn’t, but to improvise and do as best as you can.
One patient wanted to go to the beach, but that wasn’t possible, so we made her room look like a tropical paradise. One wanted a great steak dinner. Her son paid for the best steak house in South Florida to deliver a full steak dinner meal to her. She cried with such joy. Another wanted champagne and fresh strawberries. We did it. Fact is, granting people’s wishes is not so difficult, you just have to try.
So, although I am now living a very Jewish life and those Christmases of the past are not in my present, the lesson my mom taught me is still with me today and I hope will remain with me in the future. I believe when people are listened to, when someone takes the time to really hear them and in kind responds with their best effort, real joy can be found.
I wonder what Israel’s three wishes would be. What are mine? I will try to be realistic,… To please God enough to be able to be buried here near my late beloved; to always be able to take care of my animals and have them with me; to always remember mom’s lesson and try to grant the wishes of others to the best of my ability. Thanks, Mom.