Gifts That Matter

We are occasionally prone to excess around here. Submitted as evidence: a Christmas gift from my husband.

I think he got tired of running out of coffee, so he took action – and I reaped the benefits. Last year, he gave me 40 pounds of butter. This year, 40 pounds of coffee.

It’s funny, but it’s also poignant. I feel seen, somehow. The butter, the coffee – things I need consistently. A day that starts without coffee is no day at all. This was a gift of joy!

bPyGT1Y0RmqRCfoq6M7JWgAlso under the tree this year: Consolations by David Whyte, a brilliant poet I discovered via On Being whose voice and words transported me into a beautiful place of expectant hope. I’ll admit to blatant begging with this one; I sent the Amazon link with a clear message – Please get me this for Christmas. I’m looking forward to some quiet mornings with Whyte.

Lots of coffee, a beautiful book – wonderful gifts. But what took my breath away was smaller and completely unexpected.


A few weeks ago we sat in the kitchen as night fell. We decompressed and reflected upon our respective days’ work, and I shared that I spent the morning drive time with John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing on repeat. It was a meditation, a blessing for the day that effectively brought focus to the present, even as memories and nostalgia overflowed from my heart. I learned this piece years ago, in high school choir. Jeff Berta – my friend, my mentor, my teacher, my first director – insisted on bringing the highest quality of classical music into a suburban, middle class high school of kids who were mostly ignorant of how much beauty was in the world. I can only imagine, now, how frustrating it must have been for him. We didn’t understand what he offered; in many cases, we didn’t want it. Serious choral music didn’t fit into our late 70’s passion for Journey, Michael Jackson and The Police. We didn’t appreciate the sacred.

But oh, how we needed it.

The best teachers coax you along a path that is right and will benefit you – whether you appreciate it or not. Berta did that, consistently. And, in the end, he left us – or at least me – with something real and tangible that has spoken truth for 40 years. This piece of music speaks to me, today, of beautiful chords and resonant words that have borne well the passing of time. The sonic beauty and the text remain true and relevant.

I spoke of this to my husband, telling him how powerful it was to recognize, today, the richness of the harmonies – big 9th and major 7th chords connecting classical composition with hints of popular music, slight key changes that carried the weight of structural evolution and return. I told him how much I appreciated – now – what wisdom was offered to me as a 15-year old kid. I related how powerful it was to begin my day immersed in this music.

I just listened to this, over and over, on repeat. Three minutes of beauty, encouragement, blessing, peace. It made my day better. It helped me focus. It allowed me to let go of my frustration and move into the day with gratitude. 

I played the piece for him, quickly. He acknowledged it and voiced appreciation, and that was the end of that. fullsizeoutput_b20a

Until Christmas morning, when I unwrapped  the final gift he offered and discovered A Gaelic Blessing – the score and a cd.

I cried.

I shared a simple anecdote of my day, and he listened, and he somehow appreciated the value and the deeper meaning, and then he acted. And that action offered me a beautiful gift – not just the tangible book and the cd, but the knowledge that he listened – and understood. His gift said I know this matters to you. I hear you. I see you.

I’m convinced that our deepest desire to be known drives much of what we do in this life – a desire that will never be completely satisfied this side of heaven. But what a gift we offer to others, when we listen and we reflect back, in some way, that we understand.

My husband does this for me. My prayer for this coming year is that I am able to do the same, for those I encounter. May I give such a gift, every day.



Add yours →

  1. This is beautiful! What a gift it is to be seen and known!

    I’ve wanted that book for a while now! Maybe this is a sign that I need to get it!

    Now I’m wondering what your 40 pound gift will be next year! A precedent has been started!


  2. Melinda Mitchell January 1, 2019 — 8:53 pm

    Beth, we didn’t get a chance to meet at Jeff’s funeral, and I will always regret that! Jeff said we were so much alike and I can tell from this blog that Heidi shared of yours that he was right! Jeff was my choir director at Mackenzie Jr. High in Lubbock before he and his family moved to Grand Prairie. I was his choir President, babysat Karl and Heidi all the time and throughout my adult life have remained close friends with Jeff and the family. Many a time he pushed us and me to sing such extraordinary pieces that today I still associate with him and they bring me joy and peace!

    It was devastating when Jeff died because of what I was going through at the time (contemplating a divorce) and Jeff knew me like the back of his hand, could weed anything out of me, and was helping me on some things! Your blog about your husband’s gift showing you that it was about him “knowing” you was/is something that has always meant so much to me and I hope to find that one day! I can’t even believe I read someone else write exactly those words! Maybe through Susi or Heidi we will meet up one day! I live in Dallas. You are a great writer and I also enjoyed what you wrote after Jeff died…I could not have been so elequent!

    Many Regards,
    Melinda McMillan Mitchell


    • Melinda – thank you so much for sharing these words. It’s encouraging to see that the man we knew was consistent in his interactions with others, his passion for education, and his care for people. I’m glad to know that he impacted your life as he did mine.

      It sounds like we have a lot in common; maybe we’ll have a chance to meet someday! I live outside of Richmond, VA, so if you’re ever in this area, be sure to let me know!


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