Wanda Wegman decorates the tree with Ginger Nicholson, physical therapist.

By Natalie Fitzwater, business development director


Timberville, Virginia, resident Wanda Wegman recovered a favorite memory during the annual Life Care Center of New Market, Virginia, Christmas decorating project.


She also was able to accomplish her stroke rehab goals as she helped decorate.


Wegman, 78, “felt the true meaning of Christmas overcome me.”


Wegman could relate the “true meaning of Christmas” as she hung colorful ribbon garland and shiny red and gold ornaments on one of the six trees at the facility during her rehab treatment period with staff physical therapist, Ginger Nicholson.


Nicholson explained that one of Wegman’s therapy goals was to recover from the cognitive impairments resulting from her recent stroke. Having spent two weeks at Life Care’s inpatient rehab facility, Wegman successfully walked without an assistive device but continued to require spatial retraining, depth perception and left-sided arm neglect.


Nicholson saw an ideal opportunity in asking Wegman to assist with decorating the main tree in the facility’s foyer. To Wegman, Nicholson unknowingly and positively turned around her whole attitude toward therapy that day. She was elated to help. Wegman’s face beamed when asked to participate in such a joyous undertaking.


Wegman explained that as a little girl, her family did not have a Christmas tree. This was due to her “grandfather’s Dunkard Baptist ministerial duties and beliefs to not include a decorated tree in celebrating Christ’s birth,” Wegman said.


She explained that to her having a Christmas tree was special and she had decorated her own home with a tree for many years while raising her children. However, she had not continued the tradition as she had aged and found the task too difficult.


But Wegman never forgot her childhood training and focus on Christ in Christmas. She said while smiling brightly, “The tree reminds me the real meaning of Christmas is about Jesus’ birth and how God loves each person so much to give us the gift of salvation from our sins.”


Wegman shared this thought as she, her husband, Roy, and I stood beside the tree, holding hands. She focused mostly on her personal appreciation of Christmas, Christ’s birth. She felt honored that Nicholson asked her to participate in her favorite decoration of the season.


“The Christmas tree is a fun way to get people interested in Christmas, and then we can all share the real Christmas story with people as we decorate,” Wegman said gently. “It’s how we come together and forget our differences.”


Wegman will not have a tree at home, but she will be returning to Life Care Center of New Market for outpatient rehab and will continue to share her recovered Christmas story.


“It’s been years since I had a tree at home, and you have brought me great joy,” she concluded.


Our facility residents, rehab patients, visitors and staff all enjoy the gorgeous decorations each day, but what matters most is that Wegman reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas as seen through the eyes of a quiet, soft-spoken lady welling up in tears, telling childhood stories, laughing with new friends, while hanging ribbons and ornaments on green boughs.


Merry Christmas to all!