I'm a little confused on why her gifts would be increasing in effort if your drifting apart emotionally? Perhaps her gifts are a way to communicate that even if you're geographically separated and don't talk to/see each other as much as you used to, that your friendship is still just as valuable to her.
What is causing this drift for you?
Anyway, if your overall desire is to phase out gift exchanges with her regardless of the increased effort she's putting into these exchanges, then I don't think it matters if she has a gift for you at this lunch or not. You could offer to buy her lunch and/or whip out an extra gift card you have, but the only thing you really "owe" her in exchange is a sincere thank you.
OP here. Glad you asked about the history.
I didn't want to overburden the first post with background.
I'll try to keep it brief. When Joan first moved away across the country, I feel like I tried hard to keep up with her--emails, gifts that I put a lot of effort into, etc.. And I did not get much effort back, I felt. No response to my emails for weeks, Christmas gifts finally sent in February, no thanks at all for the gifts I sent her unless I initiated contact... and some history of her being critical of gifts, as well.
This went on for years, and I finally got tired of it. I started consciously minimizing the gifts I gave her, and I didn't bother initiating contact with her unless I had a specific reason. As far as I could tell she had no reaction to this. About three years ago, all of sudden, her gifts to me (which had been kind of weird and random IMO) suddenly became quite on target. I really don't know why this changed... because we don't talk.
Nice gifts are nice, but I personally can't base a friendship just on that. I don't know what's going on in her life, I don't know what her interests are anymore, etc.. Like I said, we haven't had substantial contact since this time last year. I think of her fondly, I look forward to seeing her at lunch, but I'd rather spend my gifting money/effort on people I really have an active friendship with, and not someone who I just think of fondly from "the old days." I would really just like to take money out of the equation, think of her fondly, get together if we can, and not think about it any further.
I think your conclusion is correct, though. Even if I knew she was bringing me something cool, I would probably just get her... another Amazon card, and then next spring suggest ending the gift exchange completely. So maybe it doesn't really matter. I love how you guys can help me see things more clearly.
I can definitely pay for lunch, but we're meeting at a little diner, so that wouldn't exactly be a big expense.