If a gift falls in the forest…

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is near enough to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a gift falls into the hands of someone who immediately forgets she’s received it, does it make an impact?

I have to admit I have to remind myself that there is joy in giving, that it’s better to give than to receive, that I should give wholeheartedly expecting nothing in return. And, yet, I struggle in giving my mother gifts, even the gifts of a phone call or visit. It takes so much out of me, gives her nothing but confusion and, perhaps, a moment of joy. Or so it seems.

When your parent has Alzheimer’s, you have to learn to give reasons far beyond the immediate, less-than-permanent, joy of the receiver….


gift falls in forest

I will be the first to admit that having a parent with Alzheimer’s disease has its upside. For instance, I know I could call her to confess the sins I’d never have mentioned had she had the capacity of memory, knowing I could use her as a sounding board and get some advice — and she’d never think any less of me because she’d have no memory of it. Of course, I haven’t. But I have managed to delay sending a gift or making a call on a holiday — knowing she wouldn’t know what day it is anyway.

I had no idea what to send my mother for a recent traditionally gift-giving occasion. My sister suggested a cardigan sweater in a neutral color to coordinate with everything else she wore. My husband suggested sending a box of chocolates that my mother could share with the staff. So I sent a beautiful, white sweater and a full batch of homemade caramel brownies with nuts, along with a card that would instruct my mother to share the sweets with the staff.

But I couldn’t even find out if she’d received the box.

I called her, thinking the staff might recognize my name and associate me with the box of goodies I had sent before they passed the phone to my mother. No.

I started the conversation as per our new normal — the usual “Hi, Mom, this is your daughter Sara.”

“Sara? Where are you?”

I named the city where I’ve lived more than half my life.

This time she didn’t even pretend to know where or what that was.

She immediately began to ramble about things unknown to me. I thought she sounded drunk but knew that wasn’t the case. More likely, I’d awakened her from an evening nap.

I asked her about the package she would have received the day before.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said.

I prompted, “Did you get to eat a caramel brownie? You’ve always loved those.”

She had no idea.

I tried again.

“Mom, are you wearing a white sweater?” thinking she could at least look at what she was wearing at the moment and tell me that much.

“What’s a whiooott wawa?”

“Are you wearing a white sweater?” I asked again, enunciating as clearly as I could.

Does she hear me as if I were the teacher in a Charlie Brown movie?

Or was she unable to grasp the concept of white sweater and, thus, also unable to repeat it?

I spent numerous minutes with my mother, as she praised me and all I’m doing (though she had no idea what I did) and rambled incoherently. I hung up the phone, having no idea even if the package had been received, let alone been received with pleasure.

What was the point?

I thought of that age old question:

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is near enough to hear it, does it make a sound?

(I mean, surely my famous caramel brownies are weighty enough to make as much sound as a tree, right?)

But I really wondered:

If a gift falls into the hands of someone who immediately forgets she’s received it, does it make an impact?

My husband, who has worked as a therapist in a variety of nursing homes over the years, insists that blessing the staff — even if the patient is mostly unaware — is a smart thing to do for the patient. It indicates that you are thankful for the care the staff is giving, and sweets might just make them give a little sweeter care to that patient.

In addition, even if my mother had but a fleeting moment of feeling loved, of experiencing joy, who cares if it is but a fleeting moment?

Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). He never indicated that the receiver had to remember the gift.

Last week, I was working out in a weight room alone at the health club, when a man came in and used a couple of machines. As he was about to leave the room, he surprised me by addressing me, saying:

“You held the door for me at the Hub last week.”

It turns out that we work in the same building, and I had done him such a small act of kindness that I didn’t even remember doing it. But it made an impression on this man and it impressed upon me the importance of living giving, daily offering grace and kindness even to a stranger.

The Bible says we should extend hospitality to all, because we may be “entertaining angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2). It also indicates we should be giving in secret — so secret our left hand doesn’t know what our right is doing (Matthew 6:2-4).  (Apparently, I managed that one when I gifted that gentleman with an open door.)

I’m beginning to think that my experiences in giving these days are teaching me how to truly give.

If a gift falls in the forest? Maybe the trees will clap their hands. Maybe I will never know its impact. And maybe trusting that it has done what I had hoped — or what God intended — is enough.



Posts for NaBloPoMo 2015:

  1. Why I love my hairstylist…
  2. To NaBloPoMo or not to NaBloPoMo? That is the question…
  3. No AC November…
  4. That dubious gift of an hour…
  5. I can’t wait to be discovered…
  6. Once an English teacher, always an English teacher…
  7. Of mice and men (or when you give a mouse a cookie)…
  8. When you replace people with possessions…
  9. Do what you know is right…
  10. When your eyes are bigger than your weekend…
  11. Attempting “The Glad Game”…
  12. When the Christian life is a bit too much like a political debate…
  13. Vertigo: When the world around you begins to spin…
  14. How our Mitsubishi van became blue…
  15. If she only knew…
  16. When everything feels like straw…
  17. Construction criticism (or where have all the detours gone?)…
  18. Don’t skimp on the showers…
  19. My surprise “happily ever after” …
  20. In fact, we are not entitled…
  21. The end of the twin era…
  22. More time is not always the answer…
  23. When furniture shows your age…
  24. If a gift falls in the forest…

2 responses to “If a gift falls in the forest…”

  1. Shades of death: When you lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease – All things work together Avatar

    […] to care for herself. You grieve when she loses her home, her memories, her ability to read, her ability to comprehend language, her ability to speak […]


  2. What If You Fail to Be Who You Thought You’d Be? – All things work together Avatar

    […] who works in nursing homes, said my visits still meant something to the staff, if not to my mother. The staff would remember that my mom had people who loved her and visited. The next time I sent a gift to my mother, I packaged a box of caramel brownies as a gift to the […]


I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: