I have always loved Christmas. I love the lights, the decorations, the Christmas trees, the music... I miss when my children were small and the way their eyes lit up coming down the stairs in the wee hours of the morning to see what Santa brought. I love being with family, talking with family. This year though I haven’t found the Christmas spirit I usually have. I have to admit that this last year has been stressful. But over the last few days I have read a few articles and have a few thoughts I wanted to share.
I find it enduring to read of others during this time. This year my reflection on Christmas began when I watched a clip on the Today Show of a young girl who wanted a Christmas wish. Her father had died in Afghanistan. She wanted to decorate her house in red, white, and blue. In the midst of the telecast while the mother was talking with Meredith, the girl’s younger brother saw his reflection in the camera and began dancing, watching himself. Despite the solemn subject matter, one had to smile at the young boy. Watching the scene, I thought to myself that isn’t this what his father would have wanted to be remembered, yet seeing his children happy and normal, dancing in their reflection. Then I cried.
I’m the type of person that can cry at the drop of a hat. I cry when I’m happy, sad, even when I get mad. This time I cried for the loss of another. Feeling empathy for other people is important I believe. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives focusing on what we don’t have and not what we have. Watching this video, I felt for the mother who lost her husband and having to raise two children on her own. I felt for the daughter who even at her young age was trying desperately to hold on to her father’s remembrance. I felt for the little boy who never got to know his father. His father would never be there for his first tee ball game, ride his bike or see what a great dancer he has become.
Every time I turned around I saw or read another touching story. I cried reading a story of a football player, sixteen years old, Dylan Rebeor from Columbia Central High, who died of cancer. The story followed the connection between Dylan, his school, and football team. The article recounted the touching story of support both from his classmates and school officials to Dylan himself and his belief in his team from ‘Livestrong’ bracelets, benefit dances to Dylan’s Number 25 decals. How his team adopted a motto- ‘Fight Like Dylan’ and won their first state championship the day Dylan died. In his brief period on earth Dylan showed more courage and strength than most men ever could no matter how long they lived.
Another young football player from Texas, Jared Williams, suffered a paralyzing injury playing football. Raised by a single mother, the home they lived in wasn’t suitable for the wheelchair bound boy. The community gave back to him by building him a handicap house. Actions say so much than words. Pinkston High and Dallas ISD raised even money to pay for the entire house. When an accident happens everyone seems to respond immediately. Then in our daily lives we tend to forget and go about with our busy lives. But that didn’t happen here. It took over a year to raise the funds. Not only that but the story continued with Jared and his mother giving back supporting another young football player who sustained a similar injury.
I think back to the stories my grandmother on my father's side told me of her father and I marvel at his faith he held to all his life. His name was James Womack. A simple man, a widower left with six small children to raise when his beloved wife died. My grandmother never knew the reason why her mother died. She was only a baby. It was thought she died of another pregnancy complication. She had five siblings, two brothers, Troy and Freddy, her older sisters, Sybil and Willard and her fraternal twin, Ruth. The norm back in those days would have been to marry again. It would have been unheard of trying to raise six children by himself, but he did. And he never remarried, but life wasn't easy. Shortly after losing his wife, he was in the middle of harvesting his cotton crop. Little Freddy disappeared from his Grandmother watching him late one afternoon. It was thought he had gone looking for his father. They searched every where for little Freddy. The whole neighborhood searched. The search ended when little Freddy's body was found in the midst of the cotton waiting to be packed. He had fallen within the soft picked cotton and suffocated. He was only three, another devastating loss. Growing up my grandmother didn’t come from one of the wealthiest of families in the community, but she did come from one of the most respected. Her father had all his children at church on Sunday morning, at school on time, always clean and well groomed, manners were a must, and above all they all were giving and caring. In this time my grandmother was growing up, she noted the close bond between her father and her oldest brother, Troy. In her youth she idolized her brother. Tall, handsome, athletic in her eyes, he could do no wrong. She told me a story of the time when a tornado swept through her home in Marietta wiping out most of the small town. Her sisters and she were at school at the time it struck. She was separated from the others scared to death until Troy found her and he took her to safety. He was her hero. But this hero would fall young. In any community there is always a bully who seeks to make himself feel bigger by threatening others. Here in this tale I will call him Taylor. When Troy began courting a young woman named Shelia, Taylor decided to make it his mission to bring Troy down. Taylor wanted Shelia himself, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Taylor told Troy to back off, but Troy was seventeen and in love. Troy refused, angering Taylor to no end. Troy turned and walked away from him. Then in front of numerous witnesses, Taylor grabbed a baseball bat and smashed it in the back of Troy's head. Troy never knew what hit him. He is buried next to his little brother. This murderer was convicted and sent to prison, but as in all cases such as this the act can never give back what had been taken. Yet, my great-grandfather did not cry for justice when Taylor was released years later. And my great- grandfather did nothing to his brother who swindled him out of his life savings. No, he maintained his faith, not his anger. He lived out his life in the house he raised his four beautiful girls. I have heard many tales that there was never a better man.
Then on my Grandfather’s side his grandmother, Anne Bolton, grew up in the middle of the Civil War. Her father was killed in the battle of Shiloh. Her mother died a few years later leaving Anne, desolate and poor, to care for her siblings. Her beau had left to start over in the foothills of Mississippi. He set up a small farm and came back for her. How easy it would have been for her to have left with him, but she couldn’t leave her siblings and he couldn’t wait and wouldn’t take her siblings. He left her and married some one else. She stayed until her youngest was settled and over time paid back all the debts her family incurred over that span of time. A little over seven years later, her beau’s wife died in childbirth leaving him with five small sons. He came back and married Anne. She not only took care of her stepchildren, her own children, she took in by her own account around 16 children over the years that needed a home. She left a small autobiography of her days for us to cherish. And in her writing were only words of faith and love, never anger or despair.
I wish I was that kind of person, giving without thought of gain or caring while enduring your own pain. I’m not. I’m afraid I’m far from that person. I’m selfish. I don’t want to endure the pain of life at times, the losses, the disappointments, the stress…
When I was a child, I believed in God without question. There was no doubt, no uncertainty that he existed. Within my heart I knew and found comfort with the thought of his existence. As I have grown older, questions arose, so many questions. Even taking from the stories above, if God really does exist why does he allow such misery? How could he allow the death of a young boy who fought so hard to survive? How could he allow a young soldier to leave his family behind? How could God allow...? The questions are endless, but maybe within the questions lay the answer. Maybe the proof of his existence doesn't lie always in the miracles before us, but also in our pain. For in that pain we survive with hope. Hope that God has given us- the hope that there is another world beyond our own where there will be no tears.
I was watching a segment on Elizabeth Edwards after she died. In the video she said "I had to reconcile the God I thought I had to the facts I knew. If I was going to have a God anymore, it couldn't be an intervening God...instead the God I came to accept is a God who offers salvation and enlightenment. It's the God I live with now, not entirely the God I want, but is the God I believe I have..."
The year behind me wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst it could have been either.
And it is with that thought I am holding to this Christmas. To celebrate Christ's birth with the remembrance of the hope that his birth brought. And with that promise I place my faith.
A couple of saying I’ll leave you with that I have taken from some of my Facebook friends-
The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.
Winston Churchill- Never, never, never, never give up.
Links to a few of the articles I mentioned above
The article on Dylan Rebeor can be found on Rivals High. The article was written by Tom Bergeron
Rivals High Senior Editor.