“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.”
~Thomas M. Cirignano,
Although Virginia was tall, she was tiny in frame But not so her personality or heart. When she entered a room, her smile charmed anyone she bestowed it upon, but she never used that to her own advantage. Rather, her smile was just a part of the generous way she lived in the world, and like so many other things she did, was given freely as a gift to others. She was a true Southern Lady, full of charm, wit, and wisdom, and not only knew the definition of hospitality but practiced it regularly. She knew how to make someone feel instantly at ease.
Virginia loved fiercely – her God, her family, her friends. She was also fiercely loved by all who knew her. I counted it an honor and a privilege to be among both groups of people.
I first met Virginia when she was doing something she loved: teaching a Bible study. Over the course of time, Virginia took me under her wings and we became close friends. I think she saw in me a young wife, mother and new-to-the ministry pastor’s wife who didn’t have a clue about life and made it her mission to help me.
Over the years we shared many lunches, deep conversations, laughter and a few tears. Virginia taught me how to study the Word, how to better love my husband and children, and how to pray and trust God.
She also taught me how to give.
Each year at Christmas she would send a Christmas card with a check for $100 and note enclosed which read simply: “Use this money on yourself.
The first few years I protested that I couldn’t keep such an extravagant gift, and suggested I give it back or donate it to a local charity. Virginia would hear none of it and insisted that the money was intended for me to spend on whatever I wanted or needed.
As a young pastor’s wife with three young children, I didn’t often allow myself to think of what I wanted or needed because money at that time had to be viewed as more of a necessity than a luxury. And like most mothers, my children’s needs and wants came before my own.
I struggled each year with feeling selfish if I spent this amount of money on myself, especially when I could think of other things it could be spent on. But in order to honor Virginia and her gift, I did spend it on myself each year as she intended.
Eventually, my husband received a call to serve another church, and we moved away from The Coast. I didn’t get to see Virginia as often but still met with her once or twice a year when we made return trips to The Coast. My husband would drop me off at a restaurant and take the kids to McDonaldS, so that Virginia and I could have lunch together. This was one of the many beautiful gifts he’s given me over the years.
When Katrina hit, Fred and Virginia lost their home in Bay St. Louis and most of their possessions. My heart broke for them. They did decide to rebuild and recreate the home they had so lovingly created the first time around. It was a long and arduous process.
That Christmas that came just several months after Katrina hit, I received a Christmas card in the mail. Upon opening it, it had the same note it always contained and a check for $100. I cried. I could not believe that Virginia had even been able to think of sending out cards that year, much less her generosity in giving. I insisted I send back the check, but Virginia insisted that she would be offended if I did.
Then there came a time in our lives when we had more than enough for our own needs as well as the means to generously share with others. Information that I freely shared with Virginia.
That year the card, check and note still came. I protested. Virginia protested even louder. I kept the check and spent it on myself as Virginia instructed. The thought occurred to me for the first time, that maybe Virginia didn’t send me a check because she thought I needed it, but because she wanted me to have it. Because she enjoyed giving good gifts just like our Father in heaven does.
Then one year the card didn’t come. I had sent our usual card and gift to Virginia and Fred and shortly thereafter I received a note from Fred. This note read: Dear Terry, Our Virginia passed away suddenly on July 4 and I didn’t have your phone number or your address to contact you. I am so sorry, Fred.
The news hit me hard. She was here one-moment living life vibrantly as Virginia always did and was gone the next. The last time I saw Virginia was the last time I would ever see her this side of heaven. I had lost a good friend, and I miss her still.
I wrote Fred back a letter of condolence, but it felt a little awkward trying to maintain an ongoing correspondence with him, as I didn’t really know him, except through the loving stories Virginia told about the two of them.
Many years have passed, and each year I think of Virginia. I think of her love, friendship, and generosity to me all those many years.
I wanted to find a way to honor her, so the Christmas after I had received the news that she had gone home to be with the Lord, I decided to continue Virginia’s gift of giving. Each year I would go to the bank and ask for a crisp new $100 bill. I would carry it around in a Christmas card and look for someone to bless. I would pray, watch and wait. When the right person came along, I would hand them the card, and tell them to be sure not to lose it, and to wait to open the card until after I had left.
Many times, I would find a waitress who was working double shifts just to make ends meet, or a family whose children might not get any Christmas gifts that year, or someone who was facing huge medical costs, without the means to pay it. The needs were always there if I opened my eyes to look. So many times, before I could drive away, the recipients would run out to meet me with tears in their eyes and tell me I didn’t know how much it meant to them or how much they needed it. Jesus knew. And just as He used Virginia to bless me all those years, He is using her still to bless others.
Virginia taught me what it truly meant to give. Now looking for ways to bless others has become one of the best parts of Christmas and a tradition I look forward to each year. Always remembering Virginia.
Hi, I’m Terry Gassett, Jesus Follower, Wife, Mother, Nina, Life Coach, and Writer. I was born and raised in the “Deep South” and I still live and work there. I have been married to my heartthrob for over 30 years, and we have three grown children, three granddaughters (two who are twins!) and a Chi Chi/Jack Russell perpetual pup.
I am a Life Design Coach and I work with Creative Christian Women to design lives of purpose, passion, and joy!
When not listening to women’s hearts through the coaching process, I am expressing my own through writing. Currently, I’m writing my first book – “Breathe, Just, Breathe: Breathing in the Extraordinary Gifts of God on Ordinary Days.”
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