As it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to share a piece of flash nonfiction memoir writing with you. It reveals how love once came to me wrapped up in a tiny gift. No, not my engagement ring, in case you’re wondering! πŸ˜‰

That would be too obvious. This one was completely unexpected. It was given to me from a dear soul on the threshold between this world and the next. I’ve treasured the memory to this day…

Wrapped in love

Her warm smile lights up the room, belying the way her lips and gums have painful ulcerating craters, like mini bombs. As she grins at me, I can’t help but notice the parched flakes of skin falling from her lips like snow.

She stretches out her bird-thin hand in welcome. I clasp it readily. When I look into her eyes they are still twinkly and bright, still red-tinged and tired.

Her grip is surprisingly strong, as if it contains all the strength and resolve she can muster. I squeeze her hand and return her smile, while my feelings fight inside.

How can she be so focused, so brave and resilient? I struggle to do the same or to look away from the surrounding mountain of cards, vibrant helium balloons and fragrant flowers declaring their love for her.

This woman has captivated many a heart, including mine, in the time I have known her. I sit on the edge of the bed, knowing she needs my time and attention above anything else.

“Here”, she says, her eyes meeting mine with greater intensity than before, “Take this.” A tiny, tissue-wrapped package emerges. She pushes it towards me like a plea. I’m uncertain whether or not to accept.

love - alphabet blocks - red heart - when love comes wrapped up in a tiny gift @joylenton.com

“Go on!”, she urges, pressing the parcel into my hands. “It’s a little something to say thank you for all you do.” I swallow back the tears, receive it and murmur my thanks.

Because this feels like a memento honouring our relationship, a small piece of her generous heart.

I pocket the mini package as I fuss around her as usual, doing the necessary while keeping up a steady stream of conversation. I want to linger longer but time is short and I know I must move on, see to the numerous tasks awaiting me.

Later on, when I return from lunch, I am stopped in my tracks by a colleague as she takes me aside. “She’s gone.” Those two short words hit home with force.

Now? So soon? I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to her. My friend holds me as I sob on her shoulder.

I didn’t attend the funeral. But my last loving act was to soap her skeletal limbs, decimated by a mighty battle with leukaemia.

And to show her respect and tenderness in the face of death because that’s what nurses do.

Tears fall afresh as I unwrap the gift from the morning shift. Inside my palm, a red, rose petal-shaped candle sits. And a folded, rose latticed handkerchief in shades of sunny yellow.

They’re bright and beautiful, just like her soul. It’s as if my beloved patient knew I would need them both when she was gone.

love - red rose shaped candle - yellow rose handkerchief - when love comes wrapped up in a tiny gift (C) joylenton @joylenton.com

I had witnessed several deaths in my career so far but none had affected me quite like this one. A special person and friend.

I refold the gifts back into their fragile packaging and store them in the place where keepsakes lay. Ready to be remembered in future days.

Many years later, when my nursing days are over, I unwrap it again, marvelling over finding love wrapped up in a tiny gift. I ponder how God gave us His Love wrapped up in the infant Christ.

Jesus is the Gift we get to unwrap every day of our lives, and appreciate the wonder all over again. He encourages us to serve others in love. Little acts of mercy and grace soon add up to a lot, don’t they?

“β€œNot all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

PS: I’ve shared my engagement tale here if you would like to know the story… πŸ™‚ ❀