four festive burning Christmas candles with pine cones and red berries ornaments

I am my disabled husband’s caregiver. While he was hospitalized for eight months, I moved us out of the home we had lived in for 20+ years, and built a wheelchair-accessible townhome. Although the home is well-designed, and has wide hallways, there isn’t room for a Christmas tree.

Yet we are imbued with the holiday spirit. I bought a tiny artificial tree and set it on the fireplace mantle. A Wisconsin friend made a fresh pine wreath for us, and it smells like the North woods. I smiled as I hung her gift on the front door. After placing a few beloved holiday directions around the townhome, the holiday decorating was done.

Gifts were next item on my To Do list. Since my husband is confined to a wheelchair, I don’t leave him alone for very long. When I’m gone I worry about him constantly, Like many consumers, my solution was to shop online. We’re giving family members books chosen especially for them. I’ll probably make some food gifts too. What about our gifts for each other?

“I want to get you something special,” my husband mused, “but shopping is hard when you’re in a wheelchair.”

“You’ve always been generous,” I answered, “but we’ve had lots of medical expenses. Please don’t get me anything.” My husband nodded in agreement, and asked me not to get him anything. We were satisfied with our mutual decisions.

John and I have been married for 60 years, and celebrated many holidays together. Being his primary caregiver is really my gift for him. This made me thing of the Shaker Hymn, “Tis a Gift to be Simple,” written by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848. According to the first verse, when we find ourselves in the “place just right,” we will experience love and delight. We’ve lived this line and being in the same room makes us happy.

Because he is a retired physician, John understood the dangers of a dissected aorta, risks of multiple surgeries, and excessive anesthesia. He knew he could wake up with paralyzed legs, and that’s what happened. “I was willing to roll the dice,” he admitted later. Because he rolled the dice, John, in his wheelchair, escorted our granddaughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Because he rolled the dice, he knows his grandson is a student at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. Because he rolled the dice, he knows I wrote a series of books for family caregivers, and served as the medical consultant for one of them.

As the Shaker hymn says, I’m in the right place at this time of life, and I know it in my gut. Caregivers like you and me don’t need to waste energy on trying to create a perfect holiday. Instead, we can slow down, simplify schedules, and savor the miracle of life. We are alive. We are here. We are needed. We are giving the gift of love–the best gift of all.

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit

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1 Comment

  1. I’m so Blessed to have this gift from my Rick who passed away October 3rd ..2017 .. since he was in a wheel chair and couldn’t shop for a gift he surprised me with this one year . It was so special because he had a stroke and recovered enough to be able to write this .. I cherish it ❤️


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