I've come very close to having this year end without much more than a puff. I suppose a lot of other people feel the same way when confronted with the perils of the holiday season whether it's shopping for the perfect gift, fixing the best meal ever, finding time to do everything required, worrying about travel and the weather, or agonizing over family get-togethers where someone always seems to get upset. I've certainly had many of those concerns the past few weeks, but they have been tempered by far more serious matters that have been difficult to get through.
They started right before Thanksgiving - which I always spend alone because my children have plans with other members of their extended families. I could complain, but it has never seemed wise to make waves since I've lived in a different state than both of them until recently and was too far away to come with only one day off from work. But I digress because none of us need a fancy meal with more food than our stomaches can digest in one sitting to count our blessings. All we need is a heart willing to look beyond the obvious daily challenges that keep us so overtaxed we often have trouble deciding if we're coming or going.
The first event came when my son-in-law ended up in the hospital with Covid. He had gone to the emergency room on Sunday night with all the symptoms, but the hospital where he lives said his lungs were clear and sent him home without running the simple test. That seemed rather strange to me, but some places in rural Colorado aren't known for being on top of anything. By Thursday, he was so bad that the minute he stepped into the clinic to see his regular doctor he was immediately admitted. I won't give all the details of his grueling and frightening experience since I'm sure most everyone in the world today has stories they could tell of family members or friends who have fallen victim to that horrid, manmade virus with either positive or heartbreaking results.
While he was developing blood clots in his lungs and the doctor was telling my daughter to prepare for the worst, my niece's home in South Carolina burned down. Her father, my brother, died the day after Thanksgiving last year and she was thoroughly devastated since she, her husband and four children lost everything they had left that reminded them of him. That included his scriptures, the flowers from his casket, the scrapbook one of my sisters and I made with every picture we could find, and the little cars he had played with as a child. Unfortunately, I have nothing left I can send her except a picture from a coloring book he once painted for me and a letter he sent me while I was in college over 40 years ago.
Between trying to comfort her, and take care of all the other upsets I'd brought on myself by deciding to replace my kitchen countertops and the carpet that had been buckling for over three years, I talked to my daughter daily. She was living through one of the worst nightmares of her life but could only go to the hospital occasionally to see her husband because there wasn't anyone she could leave my eight-year old grandson with. They'd all been exposed at the same time while attending a wedding and were supposed to be under quarantine.
I told her I would come anyway, but she suggested I wait until they knew more. Thankfully, the blood clots dissolved and he wasn't put on a ventilator like anticipated. But he still spent two weeks in the hospital, and it will be many more months until he's able to do even a portion of what he once could. You see, he has a pacemaker and had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm several times while he was at his worst. That was enough of a worry, but the fact that he's twelve years older than my daughter and on disability complicates most everything.
With none of those issues resolved, two days after Thanksgiving, my nephew in Texas went missing. He had a wife, three children and five grandchildren and was just ready to turn 49 years old. Since I wrote that last sentence in the past tense you obviously know that he didn't make it. He chose to end his life, like his older brother had done 5 years earlier. That really blew our family apart it was so unexpected, but then I suppose a great many of us have dealt with similar experiences the past year or so with the virus, the isolation and the astronomical increase in drug overdoses since the border has been open and fentanyl has been coming across it by the truckload.
But I suppose what really made me take a moment from my busy day to write was having my son tell me a few minutes ago that a foreign exchange student who had lived with his wife's family of origin for an entire school year had just gone missing in Sweden. She had been hospitalized twice in the past few weeks for depression, and divers have been combing the lake and people scouring the woods by where they've been staying for the past day and a half trying to find her. She's an only child from a very affluent family and they have little hope of finding her alive. I met her on several occasions while she was here, and my granddaughter adores her.
Two suicides of people I know in such a short amount of time have given me great cause to reflect on the reason for this season and the hope I have in Christ. The miracle of his birth, life and death have not been on my mind as they should have been the past few weeks because there have been so many other things to occupy it. But as I sit in the quiet of my little office, I recognize how fragile life is and the enormous need there is for hope in this harsh and confusing world. We need to unplug from the steady diet of doom and gloom the media presents in nauseating length and concentrate on people. They need our smiles, our listening ears and the knowledge that they are not alone.
I don't know what I would do if I thought this life was all there is. But I know from the depths of my heart that we existed before we came here as choice spirit children of Heavenly Parents and were created in their image. We came to this earth to gain experience, learn how to walk by faith, and repent and change course when we make mistakes. And when our time to leave this earthly realm comes, we will return to those we love where we can continue progressing.
I wish I could shout that simple message from the rooftops so everyone could hear it. So much of this world is in a mess, and heartache is rampant everywhere. But I know there are good, kind, generous, optimistic and loving people all over the world who believe in the true meaning of this season and who glory in the birth of our Savior who brought light and life to all of us because through him we can be born again and live forever.
So tonight, I'm going to turn off all the outside distractions, plug in my tree lights and spend some time thinking about how lucky I am to know I even have a Savior. I may even read the story of his birth a week early. I love Jesus Christ. I honor him. I want to live my life for him. And when I die, I want to see him again. That's what this season means to me because I know I was in that heavenly choir singing and praising his name when he came to this earth. And I shouted alleluia with everyone else because of what he was willing to do for me.
I wish everyone a beautiful Christmas, regardless of the pain they may be feeling. This time of year is a gift that I want to cherish more closely, just as I do the people I love and those I have yet to me. We all belong to the same family, regardless of color, race, religion, occupation or personal desires. It truly is a time of year to give thanks.