My beloved father died on December 4th, a few weeks after suffering a massive heart attack.The loss was devastating for our little family but especially for my mom. 

We will always regret not having one last Christmas season together, which would have been filled with love and laughter, children, and wonderful food from my mother’s kitchen. Instead we struggled to cope with the “empty chair” at the table and other evidences of his absence. 

Three things sustained us during that time: our love for one another, the support of caring friends, and the promise of eternal life.

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Having been through this experience, I am even more aware that Christmas can be a lonely time for those who have no family members nearby, or those languishing alone in nursing homes.  Some receive no visitors or calls year after year.  And so we determined to open our homes and hearts to people in that situation.

One Christmas Eve after Dad’s death we invited an elderly woman to have dinner with us. Her name was Mamie. She was in her mid-eighties and the widow of a missionary.  

When we asked her to be our special guest, Mamie bubbled over with joy. At the dinner table that evening, she was the center of attention. All conversations focused on this delightful lady as she shared her memories with us.  

After dinner, Mamie opened several scrapbooks she’d brought. For years, apparently, no one had been willing to look at them, but for her there was meaning on every page. 

She told us about her deceased husband and how much she loved him. She described her life on the mission field and the people they had introduced to Christianity.  

She told us about her husband’s tragic death and how much she missed him. Story after story poured out.

Frankly, our two children had been unenthusiastic about inviting Mamie to our Christmas celebration.  “It won’t be the same with an outsider,” they protested.  But they loved the evening.  They sat, enthralled, while Mamie recollected a lifetime.  

My wife and I had expected that evening to be our gift to Mamie but she contributed much more to our family. I can still see the glow of her cheeks and the twinkle in her eye.  Mamie is gone now, but I think often about our evening together.

As most of us look forward to our holiday plans with family and friends, may I suggest that my readers consider inviting a lonely person, someone older or a single adult, to join in festive activities?  

If you have children or grandchildren at home, they will benefit from seeing you care for the needs of others. I think you will find it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Is there a Mamie in your world?  

Dr. James Dobson is founder and president of Family Talk, a radio ministry heard on 1,300 stations nationwide. He was one of the founders of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. He is the author of more than 80 books, including the current trilogy of dystopian novels, Fatherless, Childless and Godless, exploring the future effects of current cultural trends and government policies.