December 15, 1975 was a cold Ohio winter day in Alliance. I was spending the morning getting my car serviced before heading out later in the day with my sister Cindy to finish our Christmas shopping. WFAH on the Sears waiting room radio announced that there had been a fatal car-train accident east of the city.
I had a strange feeling hearing that news. My sister was applying for a job in that area. I headed home and was greeted by my mother crying. My sister was a passenger in that car and was transported to Alliance City Hospital. My mother, brother, and I were quickly on our way to the hospital.
We arrived as she was being transported to the critical care unit at Aultman Hospital in Canton. The prognosis was very bad. The morning was filled with updates that her condition was not improving. She passed away mid-afternoon. It was ten days before Christmas. She was buried a week before Christmas.
My family’s Christmas in 1975 was not a happy time. I won’t sugar coat that fact. It was a time of great grief for the family, especially my mother who never quite recovered from this loss. Christmas Day was the hardest.
I tell this story to remind you that this merriest time of year is a time to remember people who are suffering. The images of family and friends eating drinking and being merry surround us. Often unseen are family and friends who are not having the merriest holiday season.
One of the best gifts you can give this holiday season is to think of people who are suffering. Death, life-threatening illness, depression, and loneliness make this season difficult for many. It is easy to give a person suffering a call or a visit. Send them a Christmas card with a personal message. Invite them to worship or some time with you and your family. It’s a time to let that person know you care. You can’t erase the pain. You can give them comfort.
Forty-four years later, I remember my sister as I do every December 15. I remember the pain of that Christmas and the countless acts of kindness my family experienced at that time. Be the person that is remembered for their kindness in a time of need.