05/01/2012 05:34 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2012

The Best Present Is Your Presence

A decorator once told me every room needs a focal point. Wire art above the fireplace, a view of the mountains, your baby grand.

My husband and I threw a surprise party last week that was better than anything I've seen in a movie. The magical setting, the swarm of close friends and family, the look on the guest of honor's face when she arrived and burst into tears. It was, as they say, one enchanted evening.

What people are still talking about is the other guest of honor, the one I invited on a whim because of his special relationship with the woman whose achievements -- and life -- we were celebrating.

It didn't occur to me he wouldn't join us. I didn't know what everyone else supposedly did, that he never accepts invitations like this. Another guest -- watching me wait for him -- promised he would never show. Never, ever, ever. At which point he walked in. That look she gave me! I've never seen a look quite like that.

The rest of the evening was a happy blur of hugs and tears and more hugs and laughs -- just so much laughter. All of it punctuated by still another person eager to tell us we really put the surprise in surprise party.

The biggest surprise to me was how much the guest of honor had always longed for a soirée like this. It isn't the kind of thing you can ask for, she explained, without spoiling it. She had trouble falling asleep that night because she was replaying every moment, which made me wonder if I've felt better about anything in my life.

The party was our way of thanking her for being in the world. She is that special. What we got out of it? A lovely reminder you can make someone's life... just by showing up.

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