by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
The encounter began in the stark waiting room of a Japanese hospital in Tokyo. My sister, Anne was in intensive care from a heart attack. I had flown to wait with her two, mostly adult, children.
To spend 45 minutes with her, twice a day we spent 11 hours sitting on hard chairs in that small room, filled with people also waiting to see those they loved.
Anne and I had lost our sister, Carol, 20 years before, also to a heart attack. She and I had talked just before she left to finalize plans to take all of our kids to Disneyland as soon as she was back.. When the phone rang I had expected to her her voice.
That waiting room was a long ways from Disneyland. Sitting there, mostly silent, others, also waiting became familiar.
One day I bought a small box of candies and shared it with the lady and her little girl who always sat across from me. Her face lit up and she bowed. I smiled back, and felt an easing of my anxiety, much needed. The next day I was astonished to receive a beautifully wrapped gift handed to me by the lady. I bowed my thanks. The gift giving continued each day. The English manger of our hotel told me the gifting never stops, which proved to be true in unexpected ways.
Eventually, we learned Anne was brain dead. She would not be returning to us in this life. But those moments waiting brought me to see the times we had shared as gifts I would never lose.
What I remember most clearly from the time spent in the hospital is the light in the eyes of the Lady and her small smile as her hands gently accepted the gift I handed her and the happiness in her eyes when she gifted me.
Later, I discovered the gifts Anne's life had also given far more clearly for these moments. They eased my grief, recalling to me of all the gifts which had flowed to me from my sister, and others I had never truly appreciated.
Gifts come in many forms, some material, others spiritual, some life changing long after they are received. From the multitude of gifts we get some take time to appreciate. Gifts can connect us, ease us, and enlighten us. And all are reason for thanksgiving.