This Christmas

nativity
Close up of Nativity by Brian Kershisnik, photo credit Silus Grok

After a really rough year of losing people, this week before Christmas began with the funeral of a friend of ours. He ended his own life when no one saw it coming and left three grieving children behind. The funeral was good. A beautiful blend of raw honesty and deserved tribute and hope. But my heart breaks for the kids, all who are dealing not with just losing their dad, but also how they lost him.

The next day we attended the sealing of a girl who grew up in our neighborhood–same age as our daughter–and who calls me one of her second moms. The sealing took place in the Payson Temple, which holds a special place in my heart due to the way it brought so much peace and comfort to my mother.

The juxtaposition of a funeral and a wedding so closely merits more meditation and perhaps less words, but my takeaway can be described in one word: hope. I felt the spirit as strong in sorrow as well as in joy.

This morning we got a text from my brother-in-law telling us their sweet granddaughter Lily had slipped through the veil. Lily was born with a quite rare genetic defect that has made her brief sojourn here challenging and painful. Yet she left unexpectedly, as she was progressing well after her latest surgery and without knowledge of a greater plan, in a seemingly random way. And yet we know her life was in God’s hands.

What I will remember Lily best for is her sweet smile. I held her briefly in the NICU on the day she was born. I never heard her cry, but her joyful sweet smile cheered and brightened all who encountered her.

Although it was out of town and I was not able to attend, today the mortal body of another dear soul was laid to rest. Her name is Logann. She has fiery red hair (which I never saw, due to chemo) and a brilliant smile and the very best heart.

I only met Logann in person once, but even as she suffered through her own courageous and valiant battle with metastatic breast cancer she lifted and encouraged me and reminded me to look up while I was caring for my mother during hers. Logann left behind a young children and a devoted young husband, which I’m sure by the tenacity of her fight must have been very difficult for her.

So this Christmas has been marked hard by death. Perhaps because I’m not yet so far removed from the Christmas my mother had just been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and we weren’t sure my mom would make it through the next week, followed by the Christmas that was literally just weeks before she died; the sorrow of my family and friends’ recent losses weigh a little heavier on my heart than usual.

It’s also been marked hard by despair.

For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

(Barely scratching the surface here, simply so I never forget, but most recently: Aleppo. Germany. The future of my country.)

And yet.

The joy this sentence gives: I know my Redeemer Lives.

I know what that means for my mom and my dad. And for all we’ve loved and lost.

I know what that means for Matt and for Lily and for Logann. And for their families.

I know what this means for a world so torn by hatred and evil.

I know what that means for me.

So I will carry hope in my heart more gently and yet also more firmly this Christmas, wondering how my hold on it can be both so tenuous and sure at the same time.

And I will carry a prayer in my heart for the peace–a voice, a chime, a chant sublime–the Savior brings and kindness and good will.

[Day 56 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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