Saturday, December 20, 2014

The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle

Title:  The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle
Author:  Joanne Huist Smith
Publication Information:  Harmony. 2014. 224 pages.
ISBN:  0553418556 / 978-0553418552

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through Edelweiss free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Blogging for Books.

Favorite Quote:  "One of the greatest gifts we all possess is the ability to give. Wealth isn't a prerequisite; compassion and a kind hear are all you need. What better way to honor our loved ones, past and present, than to reach out and change a life for the better? And, the holidays are a perfect time to look outside of ourselves and be a true friend. A legacy of generosity can create memories that reverberate beyond the moment and outshine the brightest of heirloom ornaments."

The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle is and is not about Christmas. It is about Christmas in that the book is set in the Christmas season - the first Christmas a family has to go through after suffering a devastating loss. The book is not about Christmas in that it is not about the religious beliefs of Christmas. It is about loss, grief, friendship, compassion, and most of all, hope - ideas and feelings that are universal no matter what your beliefs.

Joanne Huist Smith married her husband Rick in 1980 at the age of 25. They had three beautiful children - Ben, Nick, and Megan. In 1999, Rick died suddenly. The family fell apart emotionally. Joanne had no idea how to hold her family together, how to move forward herself, or how to help her children cope.

Do you know that bereavement counseling through hospital and hospice programs often care for a family for over a year following the death of a loved one? A key reason for this is that the first year following the death is a year of firsts - first birthday without..., first summer without...., first winter without...., and first holiday without..... Grieving is a moment by moment process; yet, almost universally, the first holiday without a loved one is one of the most daunting things to face.

For the Smith family, the approaching Christmas holiday seemed more ominous than joyous. How would they get through a Christmas without Rick? How would they get through this first Christmas?

Then, thirteen days before Christmas, a gift mysteriously appeared on Smith's doorstep. The card read, "On the first day of Christmas your true friends give to you, one Poinsettia for all of you." The family, of course, picked up on the reference to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. Yet, who were these "true friends?"

On the next day, another gift and another card. And then another. As Christmas drew closer, the gifts and the mystery of the "true friends" gave the Smith family a focus and could momentarily draw their attention from their sadness. The gifts were small and varied - wrapping paper, bows, a poinsettia. They did nothing to mitigate what the family had suffered; nothing in the world could do that. However, the gifts did bring a smile to their faces and perhaps lessened the dread of facing the first of many firsts without Rick. This act of kindness got them through. It could not take away the pain, but it provided room for hope and joy in the middle of sadness.

The mystery of the "true friends" identity was ultimately solved; yet, it almost did not matter for by then, the Smiths had survived that first Christmas. More important than the who was the what - the "true friends" provided hope, kindness, and compassion. Each one of us has gone through losses and can feel the pain of the many moments when you turn around to share with your loved one and he or she is not there. An act of kindness at that moment makes all the difference in the world.

It doesn't take much - a card, a small gift, a kind word, a helping hand, a hug - but it can mean the difference between despair and hope. This is especially true around the holidays - whether the holiday be Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanzaa, and any day that holds special meaning in a person's life.

This book is a beautiful story of the difference a "true friend" can make and a gentle reminder to be a "true friend" to someone every day.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


  1. I love the book and am so thrilled at the reception it has had. Merry Christmas!

    1. Diana, Thank you for stopping by. I love this book for the positive ideas it supports and the fact that this family found hope in such a time of sadness through these acts of kindness. Our world needs more compassion and kindness!

  2. I read this book over the Christmas holiday. It's a beautiful story and book. I'm keeping it on my shelf and sharing with others :)

    1. Nicole, Thank you for stopping by. I agree. It is so wonderful to see books promoting positive values and ideals. I too have shared this book with many people.