BSM Blog: Christmas and The Gift of Faith
Best Christmas, worst Christmas, all at once. It was December 25, 2009. Our two daughters, age 19 and 21 were home from college for Christmas, and we were enjoying our long-standing family tradition of opening presents that were left by Santa Claus. My husband’s father, Norman Skinner was 85 and had been battling cancer for a while, fighting hard but slowly losing ground each day. We had become familiar with the calls from the Methodist Hospital Emergency Room telling us that Norman was there, suffering again from the effects of the cancer. Typically, he would be treated for symptoms and sent home fairly quickly. Not the case during Christmas of that year.
The phone rang Christmas morning and I could tell from my husband’s responses that Norman was back in the ER. We hurried up the present opening and traditional waffle breakfast and piled into the car to head to Methodist Hospital. I was grateful we had already gone to Mass on Christmas Eve and said some additional prayers on the drive over to the ER.
For me, Christmas is a time when my faith becomes more real than ever. There is something about the Scripture readings at Mass during Advent, the words to certain Christmas carols heard so often and the religious messages that can be found around and about the season that touch my heart in a way that simply doesn’t happen during Ordinary Time. As it turns out, my family’s Christmas Season in 2009, which you probably know is twelve days long, was spent at the bedside of my dear Father-In-Law as he journeyed from this life into the next.
Norman Skinner lived an amazing life. His family came to America on the third crossing of the Mayflower. Generations of Skinners lived in the Boston area and participated in some of the most significant events in the history of our great country. Norman was in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. He parachuted into France on D-Day and fought valiantly, and ultimately successfully, to save the French and the world from Hitler's evil reign. He also spent time as a decoder at Bletchley Park in England, again working hard to fight against the spread of evil in our world. After the war, he had a long career in the field of technology and was one of the men who worked on the early versions of computers in the early 1970’s. We miss him dearly.
Best Christmas and worst Christmas, all at once. Norman passed away peacefully, with his six children and his wife at his side on January 3, 2010 - during the Christmas Season. It was the best Christmas because our extended family, gathered from around the globe, spent time together at his bedside praying and remembering his life. It was the best Christmas because I knew that this wonderful man was in heaven. It was the worst Christmas because we still grieve the earthly loss of his presence. My husband still from time to time instinctively thinks, “Oh I should call my Dad, he’d love to hear about that,” only to painfully remember that his Dad is in heaven. Losing a loved one is always hard but having faith in God and the resurrection makes it bearable.
Christmas is about God creating a way to become intimately connected to us as human beings. It’s about reminding us that God understands our humanity and will never abandon us. In the coming of Jesus, God has provided us a way to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. Christmas, Emmanuel, God With Us - what could be better!