A while back, Sarah over at Yes and Yes asked her readers to consider the question: “What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?” I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I’ve had a lot of wonderful people do a lot of nice things for me. There are little nice things that haven’t taken a lot of effort, but they’ve come at exactly the right time. There have been some massively generous and sweet and romantic things that people have done for me. Although I have been blessed to be the recipient of a myriad of good deeds, one really stands out from the pack.
Six years ago, my grandfather was very ill. He’d had bowel cancer when I was a baby, and part of his treatment was an operation that removed a section of his bowel. He’d been relatively healthy up until this point. About a week and a half before Christmas, he’d been rushed to hospital with severe pain. It turned out that his bowel had twisted, leaving him in agony. A surgeon performed an emergency operation then and there, and fixed the problem.
We went to visit my grandfather many times in the lead-up to Christmas. Each time we saw him, he seemed to get sicker and sicker. His skin went from ruddy pink to papery grey. His voice became weak. Even when he hugged me goodbye, I couldn’t feel any of his former strength in his arms. I was so afraid during those days, and each time I left the hospital, I prayed that he would be able to come home to spend Christmas with us.
My grandfather loved Christmas. He was a very family-oriented person, so it was natural that he should adore a holiday that revolved around family. Christmas has always been the one time of year where our entire family is together, and he looked forward to it as much as a child looks forward to a visit from Santa. Until that point, I didn’t have a single memory of Christmas morning that didn’t include Pa sitting in the soft chair in the corner of the lounge room, sipping a cup of tea and grinning broadly as his watched my brother and I gambolling about with our presents. It seemed wrong to me that he should spend his favourite day of the year in hospital, and so I wished for him to be well by then.
When I visited him on Christmas Eve, I knew for certain that I wasn’t going to get my wish. He looked more frail than ever, and I dissolved into tears the moment I walked out of his sight. On the way home, I changed my prayer, instead praying that Pa wouldn’t die on Christmas day.
Things went well on Christmas morning. Although it was a more sober Christmas than we were used to, everyone still did their best to make the day merry. After we’d opened our presents, and were beginning to prepare breakfast, the phone rang. The sound of that shrill jangle turned my blood ice cold.
The call was from Pa’s doctor, to tell us that he had gotten worse during the night. He asked that my grandmother and my parents come to the hospital immediately. In a flurry of anxiety and tears, the adults swept out the door, leaving my brother and I alone among the debris of our Christmas breakfast.
I was so shaken and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to call any of my friends and ruin their Christmas morning, and I knew that most of them were away for the holidays anyway. Then the phone rang a second time. It was Ross. He and I hadn’t been dating for very long at this stage- only about a year. As soon as I heard his merry voice, I dissolved into tears. It took a while to explain what had happened, and as soon as he realised my brother and I were alone, he raced over.
He held me while I cried, and helped me to tidy up the remnants of breakfast. He waited while I took a shower and got dressed. Then he bundled me and my brother into the car and took us over to his family’s house.
His family insisted that we stay for lunch. I was very hesitant about this idea, because I didn’t want to intrude. However, there really wasn’t any question of us staying. We had no place to go but our empty house, and Ross’s family were adamant that we should stay. So we did. Everyone was so kind, including us in their games, giving us loads of hugs when we needed them and space when we wanted it. When lunch was served, nobody complained about the fact that there wasn’t enough pork crackling to go around, or that my brother and I had eaten their chances of having second helpings of dinner. We were welcomed so completely and without question. We were treated like family.
Later that afternoon, when we got the news that my grandfather had come through another emergency operation, we were flooded with love and relief. I can never thank Ross’s family enough for how much better they made that incredibly difficult day. Even though they couldn’t take away our fear and worry, they made it a little easier to bear. Their kindness and generosity meant the world to me, and I’ll never forget it. It really was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.
What’s the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for you?