I received some very sad news today. The father of a friend of Christie passed away this morning after battling cancer. He was in remission as recent as this fall, only to to have it return with a vengeance. In addition to the son who graduated from high school with Christie (and is now a freshman at Penn State with her) he leaves behind a son in Jordan's grade. While I don't know them personally Christie has told me, on more then one occasion, how nice the parents were. Good, nurturing people. The kind of folks you hate to see this happen to, especially this time of year.
Our family is no stranger to tragedy and adversity around Christmas. In December of 2009 we lost my uncle and father-in-law, just ten days apart. Both were completely unexpected deaths that put our tight knit crew in a state of shock, and had us fumbling while trying to go through the motions of the season.
And then there was December of 2000. It was a cold and dreary Sunday afternoon as I sat thinking about a friend who had lost her husband to cancer in January that year. She would be spending her first Christmas alone with six children. I counted my many blessings and thanked God for I had healthy kids, both sets of parents - mom and dad were both remarried, my in-laws, and my beloved Aunt Marie. I knew there would come a year when someone I loved wasn't with me anymore. What I never imagined was that just one day later my husband would be fighting for his life. That during the next few weeks I would dig down deep and find strength I never knew I had to help him through it. All while having an eight, five, and not quite two year old at home. I know that pain and fear all too well. Christmas carols are playing and people are celebrating while you're begging and bargaining with God. The only gift you want is one not found beneath the Christmas tree with fancy wrappings and bows.
But back to the family I'm writing about. The friend is also one of Christie's boyfriend's best friends. When I heard hospice had been brought in, and things were moving rapidly, I reached out to Ryan to let him know I was here for him and that I felt badly for the family.
He told said to me "He's such a nice guy too. I don't understand why this happens to such good people." The fact is none of us do. I told him the one thing I did know was what the family would want others to take away from this. That life is a precious gift and it's a fragile one too. And that the one good thing to come out of something like this is that is makes other people appreciate their loved ones more.
And so I have a favor to ask of all of you. While you are busy today with your hustle and bustle of life, with work, home, holiday shopping or preperations .... just STOP. Take a minute to appreciate your loved ones. Pick up the phone and call to check in with your family. Give your spouse an extra kiss or your kids an extra bed time hug. And do so in memory of a man who loved his family. Because the greatest gift of all is love.