About this time of the year, people always ask what you want for Christmas. I got asked that question a lot more as a kid than as an adult, as if there is nothing more to want when you get further along in life. I suppose that is a question of perspective. I find that you start narrowing down what is really important and shoot from there. Which reminds me of some students of mine (all adults at an engineering firm) who I asked what they wanted for Christmas. A vacation. A car. Money. Clothes. I can’t remember exactly but I know it wasn’t cheap nor was it socks. Then one asked me.
“My health,” I had said.
The smiles dripped off quickly and I realized I had said a lot more than I had intended.
So enter Brenda Schmitz. A happily married Iowa woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died a little before her youngest boy turned two. She liked listening to a local radio station called Star 102.5 and their Christmas Wish program, where they grant the wish of a listener. Before she had passed, she wrote a letter to be sent to the radio station in the likelihood that her husband were to find a good woman to marry and asked for a wish to be granted for her husband, their six children and the new wife, as well as all the doctors and nurses who attended her in her final fight.
I won’t spoil the story but it is safe to say that you would have to partially brain-dead to not feel touched. And as I read about hate crimes and the negative things people say, I realize that those are the people who had at one point in their lives had their trains derailed, running down roads that lead to nowhere. Reading stories like that of Brenda reminds me that in the light of something greater than yourself, when your mortality is in question, that projects a clarity which defines the importance of one’s acts. I would like to think she saw through the banal and the frivolous to what was really of value. That the people she loved would need help and that she, in any capacity she could, would be there for them. Always. Even two years after she had been gone.
So I think back and recall one person I knew, who was so filled with anger and hate towards his circumstances that even in his wealth, he could not find solace. And I feel sorry for him because I know that if he could look forward, and not past, the solace he seeks would be right there. Something that happened with Brenda’s husband, David, upon getting engaged. The Christmas wish letter was sent to the station, along with two other letters: one for David and the other for his new wife.
The person who sent the letters remains anonymous but is someone who obviously knows the family.
So this Christmas, aside from being grateful for all my friends and family, I’d like to thank the Anonymous Friend who sent those letters and for making this story known. I am reminded of the beauty of friendship and of honor, something I can hopefully aspire to be better at.
Merry Christmas everyone.