Death, Disease, and Trials – Endure Them Well

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. ~ Woody Allen

WinterSpring_Copyright Pete Ferguson 2010

by Pete Ferguson

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly – so why such a seemingly dark subject within a dozen days of the Celebration of Light and of Christ?

Yesterday afternoon my wife and her friends went to lunch at the local Del Taco where  our children play together and the moms get to unwind and revel in friendship. They were not prepared for what they encountered, however. A young family – just returned from the hospital – were now deprived of their mother after what was supposed to be a routine surgery.

Four young children never to see the face of their mother in physical form within mortality again. A grieving father. Distraught grandparents who felt to approach my wife and give her a heads up that the children within the play area would be talking of the death of their mother amongst our children.

As I contemplate, I internalize the situation. I put on the shoes of the husband. I apply the consequences of this news to my children. I feel the pain and loss of my hero, my strength, my confidant. My Stephanie.

The act of dying is one of the acts of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

But birth and death are the only 100% guarantee in life (and taxes of course).

Fame, fortune, success, peace – all are conditional and seemingly spread out to strange people. We may experience any of these fleeting emotional states. The media seems to unjustly don these appellations upon the unworthy.

But death we will share with trillions of the earths inhabitants. And we will all equally be emotionally and physically connected with a physical body in one moment – only to be disconnected with it the next.

So why is there so much sting and pain associated with the concept? Perhaps it is the seeming theft of opportunity in this case. A mother robbed of seeing her children grow, experience new things, get married and have children of their own. We infer that she has been taken in her prime and robbed of its potential?

Or is it the seemingly hopelessness of a father which I can attach to and thankfully only imagine the grief, loneliness, and abandonment he must feel?

I have really only lost two grandfathers as a reference.

Others I’ve known have died, but they did not have an ongoing involvement in my life. I grieved for their families. I miss seeing them at certain times.

But my grandfathers were both influential in my life and an example to me of how to live life and both taken before my 20th birthday. And I did feel robbed – yet I’ve been paid back in spades as I look to their examples in difficult moments of my life and have felt strengthened by the legacy they left behind.

Three years ago my wife lost her father. He was not in a good mental or physical state. It was odd because there was a sense of relief, while at the same time a mourning that he never really lived up to what we supposed was his potential. That winter felt as though it would never end. Yet Spring came and then Summer.

And once the “firsts” (first Christmas, first birthday parties, first Father’s Day) turned into seconds, the sadness and loss faded away and what remained were the lessons to be learned of his life.

The submissive soul will be led aright, enduring some things well while being anxiously engaged in setting other things right—all the time discerning the difference. ~ Neal A. Maxwell

When examining life and death, I can only lean on my beliefs. The big lie of life is that we are all supposed to be in bliss, living the “American Dream.” Equal in all things. And never oppressed.

And what a lie this is! It robs us of all growth and ability to learn to endure it well as we subjugate our desires to a greater good and power. To become more than just self-centered and focused on immediate gratification.

Enduring well is not to brush over trials and tribulations as though they are just words. Quite the contrary – it is to lean into them, accept them. Play them out and realize we have the power to get through the darkest night, especially when we reach out and above to Him whose birth should be celebrated and relished more than a new television, x-box, or other fleeting and soon to be obsolete items on a gift list.

Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow. ~ Lily Pincus

This Christmas will be a very lonely and sad time for many families. Unfortunately this is the second death of parent taken before their time in our little community. Last week, however, quite the juxtaposition, a father and police officer took his own life within his home, leaving behind a family now with more questions than answers.

And so I am even more grateful for the blessings in my life. Five healthy and talented, well-adjusted children with a sixth on her way (or his). A good job and a home we love to be in. And a desire to help others also achieve happiness.

I have my own trials and tribulations to own up to and to lean in to. And in so doing, the pain is not welcomed, but when reflecting back, I am grateful for the pain because it stimulates growth, wisdom, and experience. It provides me with a greater abundance of empathy towards others and allows me to focus on the success of others rather than be discontent with a perceived lack of success of my own. And I see all of this as a great investment which will pay dividends when I will need it the most as I experience heartache of my own or am called to be in support of those close to me seeking comfort.

Perhaps the realization of being in God’s hands comes fully only as we ponder the significance of the prints in the hands of our submissive Savior. ~ Maxwell

As we ponder the meaning of this time of year, we must accept that He who is greatest of all suffered greatest of all, and in so doing, is able to understand any pain or affliction through which we must endure. And in so doing, He is able to lift the seemingly impossible burdens which we may feel trapped beneath and help us see the sunset after living through the darkest night.

As we endure our trials and tribulations well, we receive the ultimate gift. The gift of additional strength, wisdom and knowledge. And with that I wish you an early very, Merry Christmas.

The Real St. Nicholas – The People’s Champion

He challenges us at this time of year to give not only to those we know and love, but also to those we do not know and especially to those who find themselves in need.

~ Adam C. English

Nicholas providing a dowry for one of three daughters of a destitute man

by Pete Ferguson

Saturday as my wife and I dropped in at Wal-Mart for last minute stocking stuffers, I witnessed many different scenes.

1. The last minute look of desperation in many men with carts trying to find a gift for their wife. I wanted to approach them, tell them that their wife probably did not need another basket full of bubble bath and soap.

2. Excitement, enthusiasm, and glee on the faces of small children who were lining up to Shop with a Soldier.

3. The weariness and exhaustion of some of the staff who have been working long hours and were discussing how their children are now off from school yet they are still at work.

4. Unfortunately rare, but thankfully still present – the happy and peaceful shoppers excited by the magic of Christmas completing a few last minute errands.

This morning as I was catching up on reading, I came across an editorial on CNN.com about the real St. Nicholas.

Instead of fixating on the commercialization and greed that plague the modern Santa Claus, I chose to see in it the lasting power of a simple act of kindness. ~ Adam C. English

I have always held some content towards St. Nick for hijacking the true focus of a day meant to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

But the real Nicholas of Mayra understood what it meant to be a Christian. He thought of others needs and gave what he had to improve their lives. What has happened to commercialize Christmas and stories of a stranger dressed in a red and white suit were not Nicholas’ doing.

But the example he set is a worthy one worth learning about and understanding.

Nicholas had been aware of a certain citizen of Patara  in Lycia, modern-day Turkey who had once been an important and wealthy man of the city but who had fallen on hard times and into extreme poverty. The man grew so desperate that he lacked the very essentials of life.

The poor man reasoned that it was impossible to marry off his three beautiful daughters because they lacked dowries for proper marriages to respectable noblemen. He feared they would each in turn be forced into prostitution to support themselves.

Nicholas heard this heartbreaking news and resolved to do something about it. He bagged a sum of gold and in the dead of night, tossed it through the man’s window. The money was used as a dowry for the first daughter.

The kind deed was repeated for the second daughter.

Sometime later, Nicholas made a second nighttime visit so that the second daughter might marry. Later tradition reported that, finding the windows closed, he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed into one of the girl’s stockings that was hanging to dry.

The grateful father wanted to solve the mystery of the secret benefactor and was ready when the third daughter was to be wed.

When he heard a bag hit the floor, the father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the mysterious benefactor. Nicholas revealed his identity to the father but made him swear never to tell anyone what he’d done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.

Later raised to the title of a Saint after his death and thanks to millions of dollars in media promotion, unfortunately the original tale – just as the original purpose of celebrating Christmas – of Nicholas has been absconded, morphed and distorted.

The meaning of Christmas is not about iPads, video games or baskets of body cleanser. The true meaning of Christmas is about meaningful giving.

What Nicholas did was noteworthy, certainly. And before and since his time I would have to imagine that millions more have carried out acts of charity also of worth to the receiver and the reader.

Nicholas gave a gift that saved and transformed three lives and the lives of their posterity. It afforded a greater opportunity to live life to its fullest.

But only once has a life been given to save all mankind. And while other stories are worthy of repeating, it is this occurrence which transcends over 2,000 years and has impacted all who will but believe.

The life, teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord is much greater than anything wrapped in a box or recounted. It has the power to lift us to a higher plane and reminds us that regardless of our past, we always have the ability to craft our future and to be forgiven.

Take time in the hustle and bustle to ensure you and your family reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Source: The Christmas message of the real St. Nicholas, Adam C. English, CNN.com