Friday, December 25, 2009

Reflecting Back

Nine years ago, on December 12th, my parents stopped by on their way home from Salt Lake. My dad had been in the hospital down there (they had flown him down from Salmon about a week previous). His doctor could find nothing wrong, or so he said, and released Dad to go home. Our friends who brought them back were kind enough to stop here so we could see him for a while and give him a break from riding in the car. As I watched him struggle to walk from the car to my door I knew that if he continued on to Salmon he would not make it home alive so I insisted they stay here for a while to give him a chance to rest up. Little did I know that that would be my last opportunity to give service to my dad. His stay lasted just 2 weeks. He struggled to breath, he struggled to eat. We tried everything we could think of for him. I even put my chicken noodle soup in the blender for him to see if that would go down easier for him. The kids LOVED having their Paa-aa here for that long a time.
December 23rd I awoke from a dead sleep with the thought I need to go out and check on Dad. He was awake but having an awful time trying to breathe. He told me he thought he had better go to the hospital, but he wanted to try to shower first. When he got to the bathroom and realized he couldn't even do that I knew it was serious.
That day I had to make some of the toughest decisions a child should not have to make when it comes to their parents. Even though my mom was with us, she was not in the state of mind needed to make these kinds of decisions. After we got Dad into the Emergency Room on 100% oxygen and his sats were still at only 66% the doctor pulled me aside and told me we had to decide if we wanted to put him on life support to "try to pull him out of this." Dad asked the doctor if he didn't have something he could give him to take it all away.
Ultimately Dad was the one who agreed to the intubation but I still had to make the phone calls to family and let them know what was going on.
It was a hard time for us, having 4 little ones at home trying to get ready for Christmas, family coming into town to see Dad, watching out for Mom as she stayed there with Dad in the Intensive Care Unit and thinking I still had to fulfill my church calling. I am so grateful for wonderful friends and neighbors who helped us out.
Less than 36 hours later, as John and I were home on Christmas Eve getting ready to celebrate our little tradition with our kids of opening their 'pajamas', we got a phone call from the hospital. John & I left immediately, leaving the kids home alone until I could call someone to go stay with them. Dad had returned home to live with Heavenly Father on the Eve of our Savior's birth.
We opted not to tell the kids when we got home that night. We didn't want to spoil their Christmas. The next morning, after opening presents, KC hurried to get dressed and was putting on his shoes when I asked him what he was doing. He told us he was going to go see Paa-aa and show him his Christmas presents like we promised he could. It broke our hearts to tell him he wouldn't get to.
For a year or two after, I had a hard time at Christmas time. It has gotten easier as time goes on. Some years are tougher than others because I get in a more reflective mood, I guess. I remember all the fun Christmases we had when I was living at home. I remember the year after Dad's cancer surgery when we would ask him what he wanted for Christmas. "A new body and and a new truck," was what he would say. So we borrowed a mannequin from the clothing store and dressed it up and put it in a big box. We put it in the living room about 4 or 5 days before Christmas. Dad would walk around that box with a twinkle in his eye just chuckling. He was so curious as to what could be in that box. Then we bought a little toy truck, complete with horse trailer and horses and put it on a straw bale out in our calving shed. That was such a fun Christmas.
As a child, we would play Secret Santa to a family in the valley that we knew were less fortunate than we were. Mom & Dad would drive us and we would take the boxes to the porch and ding-dong-ditch the house. If we had enough snow my Grandpa (or Dad) would hitch up the team and wagon, or bobsleigh, and go up through the neighborhood, picking up neighbors and kids, come back and go out through the fields with the tubes, sleighs, car hoods and toboggans on back, then stop at the house for hot chocolate. Dad loved going sledding as much as we kids did and sometimes we would go up Williams Creek and sled down the road at night. We always had to wait, on Christmas morning, for Dad to get done milking before we could get up and open presents. If any presents were opened before he got there they would be his. One year I happened to spy a Barbie in my stocking before Dad got in the house. I didn't dare tell him because I knew he would get that present and I just knew he wouldn't enjoy playing with a Barbie near as much as I would.
My dad was such a fun loving guy who always had a twinkle in his eye. He loved to tease and he loved to laugh. He was friends with everyone and if you didn't know him, he would introduce himself and you would be friends in no time. He left me a great legacy that I will always appreciate. Of course, he wasn't perfect, none of us are, but he was a great Dad! I am forever grateful for the chance I had to have him in my home the last two weeks of his life, for the chance my kids had to have him near at Christmas-time. A friend, and family relative told me later that when they came into our home to see Mom and Dad during that time she noticed Dad sitting in the living room, with the Christmas tree up, and the kids playing there close by; she felt such a sweet spirit there. She thought that must be such a happy time for him to be surrounded with his grandkids like that.
As it turns out, Dad had problems with his esophagus and was basically starving to death. That is why he had such a hard time eating. But what was his undoing was he had been released from the hospital in Salt Lake with pneumonia. Because it went untreated, the infection spread into his chest cavity. He also aspirated fluid into his lungs. He died of asphyxiation and pneumonia.
Now I must always remember how blessed I was to have the father I had and to be grateful for all he did for me, especially all he tried to do while he was here with me before he died.
We love you Paa-aa and are very thankful for you and all you taught us. Merry Christmas!
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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Symbols of Christmas

Just a week before Christmas, I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over his mouth so I would not cry out.
"What are you doin..." I started to ask but the words choked in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.
He then answered me with a simple statement of "Teach the children." I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag fr0m behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, "Teach the children. Teach them the old meaning of Christmas; the meaning that Christmas now has forgotten."
I started to say, "How can I..." when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.
"Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a savior for the world and the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night, one for each man, now show the burning hope of all mankind." Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.
"Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed His blood that every man might have God's gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God."
"Teach the children," he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament. Here was the second color of christmas.
"The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round," he said. "This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward-symbols of Man's returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man's best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him." Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound.
"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold. It means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.
"Teach the children," whispered Santa, "that the candle shows man's thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the trees. They were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance."
Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, "A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with bonds of good will toward each other. Good will forever is the message of the bow."
Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.
"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keepers."
As Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed my admiration for this night.
He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, "Please teach the children the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops, or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children."
I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight,
As I sat and viewed all those symbols that night.
I dozed as I sat in the soft candle light,
And my thoughts were of Santa and all he made right.
To give and to help, to love and to serve,
Are the best things of life, all man can deserve.
Old Santa Claus, that jolly fat elf,
Is the very best symbol of Christmas itself.
He's the sign of the gift of love and of life,
The ending of evil, the ceasing of strife.
His message to me on that pre-Christmas night,
Has opened a treasure of deepest insight.
The one thing on earth we all ought to do,
Is teach all the children the right and the true.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas stories

I love Christmas stories. I have a book that has been put together with lots of stories and poems in it. I was typing up some more stories I had found to add to the book & thought it would be fun to put a few of my favorites here for others to enjoy.

Ready For Christmas
"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh,
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high.
Then wearily sat for a moment and read
Till soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream:
"Ready for Christmas! What do you mean?
When only last week
You wouldn't acknowledge your friend on the street.
"Ready for Christmas, while holking a grudge!
Perhaps you had better let God be the judge.
Why, how can the Christ child come and abide
In a heart that is selfish adn filled with pride?"
"Ready for Christmas, when only today
A beggar lad came and you turned him away
Without even a smile to show that you cared!
So little he asked--it could have been spared.
"Ready for Christmas! You've worked, it is true,
But just doing the things that you wanted to do.
Ready for Christmas! Your circle's too small.
Why, you are not ready for Christmas at all."
She awoke with a start, and a cry of despair,
"There's so little time, and I've still to prepare!
"Oh Father, forgive me, I see what you mean;
To be ready means more than a house swept clean."
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree,
It's the heart swept clean that he wants to see.
A heart that is free from bitterness, sin,
Ready for Christmas means ready for Him!
I sure hope I am ready for Christmas this year! Hopefully I can post a story every day until Christmas and you all enjoy them!