Comfort and Joy

A Swift Current Remember the elderly at Christmas

My friend’s mom and the excitement of Christmas…


I have shared this story before. But any doubts about a reprise were erased when I received this card from one of my friends. Her mom picked out the photo and asked her daughter to include it with her greetings.

When I look at the expression in her eyes, my heart just melts.

I remember my mom’s nursing home at Christmas. The atmosphere virtually pulsated with anticipation. Holiday décor covered every available surface. Young schoolchildren sang carols. Unfamiliar visitors wandered the hallways.

The excitement—and tension–were palatable.

My mom’s fellow residents were lucky. The head nurse made sure everyone would receive a gift. Under her watch, no one would be disappointed on Christmas morning.

And so now, as we make our lists–and check them twice–let’s follow in the footsteps of my favorite head nurse. Please remember the elderly men and women in your community…

Here is our story:

Thank You For Remembering Me

A tall thin woman slowly edged her walker into my mother’s room. Her long silver hair was pulled in a braid, revealing bright blue eyes and high chiseled cheekbones

Are you Hallie Swift?

Yes, I’m Hallie…

She reached into her pocket, grasping a shiny gold lipstick tube

I’m Dorothy

She raised her arm high in the air;

giggling as she waved the lipstick back and forth;

her voice light, crisp, melodic

Oh Hallie, I just love my lipstick. Thank you for remembering me! Merry Christmas!

In her monthly newsletter

the head nurse had issued a plea—

she needed

Secret Santas

for residents with no families;

she wanted everyone in the nursing home

to find a present under the tree.

My friends and I discussed our gifts

…chocolates and sweaters and books with large print and stuffed animals and baseball caps and comforters and…

Lipsticks for the ladies!


Yes, my friend urged

…after all, you never lose your vanity!

But let’s not give just one lipstick–

let’s get lipsticks for everyone!

So we asked friends coming to our Christmas party–

Please bring a lipstick for the ladies!

And with that, a tradition was born.

Year after year

we were showered with

Estee’s gorgeous reds, Chanel’s shimmering corals, Bobbi’s hot pinks;

small rectangular boxes adorned with bright paper and festive ribbons;

our own Christmas cornucopia.

We collected so many lipsticks;

I needed an extra suitcase for

the lipstick express!

On Christmas morning

each resident received

a beautiful little package.

A Swift Current Christmas lipstick for the ladies!

Lipstick! Photo by her granddaughter


The head nurse was effusive:

my residents are so happy–

And when my residents are happy, my nurses are happy–

And when my nurses are happy…

(her eyes glistened)

Well, girls, what can I say?

you made our Christmas!

But the truth is: they made ours.

For many of us, the trip to buy lipsticks became a defining moment of our holiday season. One friend told me she and the Bloomingdale’s saleswoman shed tears as they selected colors, then added every powder, polish and perfume sample in the department.

A Swift Current Remember the elderly at Christmas

Wayne Thiebald, Lipstick (detail), 1964 (the artist is now age 95)

A small rectangular box;

a simple gesture;

the electricity of Christmas morning;

a gift

under the tree–

bright colors;

big smiles;


Silver braid

melodic laugh

waving her lipstick high in the air

Are You Hallie?

I just love my lipstick!

Thank you for remembering me.



A Swift Current Christmas Surprise-Lipsticks for the Ladies

Thank you for remembering me! Photo by her granddaughter

I was so moved when a reader in Arkansas took lipsticks last year to her local eldercare facility. She reports the staff was surprised and grateful for her gifts. She plans to do it again this year.

The beautiful women in the photos are the mothers of two of my friends. I deeply appreciate their permission to use these photos, which say more than I ever could.


7 thoughts on “Comfort and Joy

  1. First, apologies for behind so ridiculously far behind on reading & commenting on your wonderful blog. I will catch up if it’s the last thing I do!

    I absolutely love the story and the concept with the lipstick-giving to the ladies. I entertained the thought, maybe for next year, to try something like this myself. But I have one question: what about the men??? I would feel terrible walking into a facility with gifts for all the women but with nothing for the men. Any thoughts?

    • First of all, welcome back! I know the topics can be tough. I am thrilled that you ventured here again and like the story.

      It is harder with the guys, particularly a relatively inexpensive gift for that will appeal to everyone. One year a friend provided several baseball caps–and for a long time I would spot one of the guys wearing one. It made me feel quite good! Another option is to ask the facility’s social worker for the name of a specific person without family. I remember the head nurse telling me she purchased a nice shirt and tie for one resident. His reaction was overwhelming–he was so proud to have new things. It can be quite simple actually…I took a chocolate cupcake to one resident every visit–she was always so thrilled…it brings tears to my eyes when I think of her (and I will never forget her…). Also, one year we got my mom a slinky (the child’s toy) and she loved it. I still have it on my desk!

      Thank you for asking, and I will remind you next year!

      Cheers, H

    • It would be so lovely if this became a tradition–of course I have big aspirations–if everyone adopted a lonely senior, how much richer we all would be…! Thank you for you unwavering support of my efforts here.

      And may we all find comfort and joy….H

  2. Age does not matter, ladies always need our lipstick. Loved the blog and the wonderful idea. My 99 year old friend died about 2 weeks ago–it has been a sad time for me. She and I were laughing and joking a week before her death. Please keep writing.

    • Oh Barbara, I am so sorry about the death of your friend. I know what a role you played in her life, and she in yours. My readers should know how you went out of your way to drive her places, include her in bridge games, even though she was slowing down–I hope you find comfort in knowing how welcome and included you made her feel. We all need a Barbara in our lives.

      I hope you can find joy this holiday…it can be the toughest time-as you know all too well…

  3. Hallie….I love this post and the pictures! Makes me smile. I am lucky to have another Christmas with my mother this year.
    Thank you for all the wonderful installments this past year and I look forward to more in the New Year! Merry Christmas dear friend!

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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