Christmas that year had promised to be one of our best ever. We had expected that soon after his graduation from dental school, Jim would open his own practice. I had dreamed of new clothes, new Christmas decorations, fruit cake baking in the oven, and gifts for everyone.
Instead, our lives had been in turmoil for months. Leaving our cozy apartment and good friends in Los Angeles to return to Utah had been more difficult than I had imagined, and it had depleted what was left of our scanty bank account. We had comforted ourselves with the belief that money would soon be coming in from Jim’s new practice.
Then I became pregnant, nearly lost the baby, and was required to severely limit my activities. Jim was gone for what seemed endless hours, working late night after night getting the new business in order. When he was home, he was cheerful and good company, but I had never felt so alone.
The business opened its doors in November of that year—one month later than we had planned—which left us behind on our bills. We ate a lot of beans during that time. I prepared them countless ways, but they were always beans.
I became more depressed as Christmas approached. We squeezed a few dollars from the budget to buy some storybooks and a toy for our eighteen-month-old son, Erik. I told myself that gifts under the tree were of no real importance, that the spirit of Christmas was what truly mattered. But I couldn’t catch the spirit.
I wrapped the books and the toy and placed them under our much-used, second-hand, artificial Christmas tree. We set out our cardboard manger scene and strung a few mismatched ornaments from the dining room light.
When Christmas morning arrived, we carried Erik downstairs to the tree to open his presents. There was a lump of sadness in my throat as he opened his gifts. Where was the joy I was supposed to feel?
Jim put his arm around my shoulders and placed a small package on my lap. My fingers trembled as I tore away the paper to find a red velvet box. I couldn’t believe it! Only expensive gifts came in boxes like that. Where could Jim have found the money? As I opened it, my heart seemed to stop. Inside I saw the pendant Jim had given me the Christmas we were pinned so many years before. A note was enclosed which read, “With love—again. Jim.”
My eyes filled with tears as I realized that the pendant represented his love for me. The ache in my heart vanished and was replaced by a feeling of inexpressible love and joy, and I felt the spirit of Christmas at last.
I will never forget the lesson a compassionate husband taught me that Christmas morning—that love is the most precious gift of all.