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What is a Gift?

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Ernie reflects on the present of presence

In the season of giving what is the best present one can give?

Linda gave me the best birthday present I have ever received. I didn’t see it coming yet Ana knew, as did several others. You know the old saying, “The spouse is the last to know.” 

It was still early morning and she said “Happy Birthday.” I said thanks and started to drift off again when she said “I took a vacation day today—I’m staying home.”

She hadn’t made any plans for us. She just stayed home—to be with me. It was the best birthday present I have ever received. 

Oh, there were some pants and a pair of shoes, both of which I need/want and I will think of her when I use them.  And not forgotten is the special bottle of single malt, but that is stuff; wonderful stuff, but stuff. It is terrific, but more importantly, what she gave me was a day with her. She stayed home away from her work, where she has plenty to do. Yet she took a day away from that, without any agenda—no plans for my birthday—just to give me a day, a day of presence.

Her workload wasn’t taken over by anyone else, it would still be waiting for her the following day, and yet she chose to “give“ me a day.  

Not knowing she was going to be home, I also had plans and chose to change them... my gift to me.

I turned 65. Years ago I thought 65 was old. Old looked like someone sitting in a rocker watching TV, saying they couldn’t do this or that because they were too old. I don’t feel old in that way.

A few weeks ago I finished a 7-day hike mostly over 10,000 feet. When it was over, I was tired and very, very invigorated. Ready to plan the next hike. That is not why I don’t feel old, though. 

I cut and chop several cords of wood each year for our heat. I am constantly working in our woods, thinning, healing, and making it healthier. It is good work and hard work. That is not why I don’t feel old though. 

I am here. I am being. I am thriving. I am engaged in each day.  I believe that is why I don’t feel old. 

The fountain of youth isn’t outside, nor in a gym or a surgical suite, it is not in a cream. It is within each of us all the time, in our attitudes—our choices.  It is not about denying the process of adding years of life but gracefully accepting the process and cycles and being present.  

There is that word again: presence. I believe that life is for us to continually express the spirit that is within us.  That does not mean that there are no physical, mental or spiritual challenges, but those are all part of our sacred journey.

Years ago I suffered from the constant pain of arthritis. When I was told I would probably loose ambulation all together I was despondent. Then I chose not to let that happen. I decided not to own the disease in my bones. Rejecting that condition with my mind slowly allowed me to move through it. Now because of that choice and a determination to be active, I am pain free. And mobile.

We live in a forest, it helps me stay connected to nature and her cycles of life. I watch the dignity of the aging process and am reminded I cannot change the cycle but I can decide how I go through it. I am deciding to be engaged and involved. I will watch the cycles beginning with the start of new families with new children. Birth to death the cycle revolves.  Not expecting to escape the cycle but being present with each moment and each person I encounter.

Sharing the presence of the moment.

In this season of giving, the perfect gift is always being sought after and often forgotten shortly after it is received. However, a gift from the heart is always remembered. With a gift given from the heart, out of pure love, the presenter benefits as much or more then the receiver.  Another cycle, keeping the energy flowing throughout each person and beyond.

The other day I read the question, “When do the Holidays Begin?” In our house it is early November. During the first week Linda has a birthday and nine days later I have a birthday.  But then I thought about the joy when Ana and Alice were here in September. Or when we were in Virginia in May visiting them and Noah, and that felt like a holiday. And what about the celebrations with friends, and my trip to Wyoming? And I began to realize that any day could be a “holyday” and a day for giving. 

Which takes me back to being 65 and not feeling “old.” I think it is a gift I have received and cultivated, accepting my aging as a gift.  

In addition to the gift of aging I am giving myself, it is also to share with my family and friends just as their aging is a gift to me. I know I don’t want to change the aging process, I just want to be very present within it. 

Presence is the best present I can give or receive. 

And so in this season, I wish you the joy of presence—yours and others and the recognition of the sacred joy in each moment.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

Christmas, holidays, companionship, gifts, The Hawks Nest, presence

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