Sister Durham: A Gift in a Different Wrapping

Contributed By Sister Mary R. Durham of the Primary general presidency

  • 14 December 2015

“We had just experienced a part of the plan of happiness, and it was sinking deep into our hearts. How blessed we are to have the knowledge that He lives and loves each one of us.” —Sister Mary R. Durham of the Primary general presidency

The spirit of the holidays was evident in all that glittered outside—the lights, the white snow, shopping, bustling, and hearing familiar Christmas music. This Christmas I was given a gift in a little different wrapping.

My father was alone and aging. We, as a family, had brought meals in and cared for him, with the help of a couple of nieces and their families, for about six years since my mom had passed away. My husband and I had the uncomfortable task of transferring my father from his home, which he had lived in and loved for over 40 years, to his new home at a care center. It was a very emotional time to drive away and think of never going back to a place that held so many vivid family memories. With tears rolling down my face, we drove away.

Sister Mary R. Durham of the Primary general presidency. Photo by Busath.com.

Illustration by Aaron Thorup, Deseret News.

My dad’s separation from my mom had been almost too much for him to bear, especially now, leaving the area connected with memories of friends and family. After six months in the care center, his health rapidly declined. Falls were occurring quite often, and his cough was getting very constricted. Traveling from his children’s homes was becoming too difficult for him.

After seeing a few doctors, Dad was told he would need surgery. This would be very hard for him. So based on his desire to be with Mom, we did not go through with it. We would try to make him feel comfortable as his health declined.

How were we going to help my dad feel the spirit of Christmas this year? A small Christmas tree with bright lights and birds was set up in his room. Dad loved birds. His family was now made up of 183 descendants. Every day someone new from the family would come visit him. It was a time of rejoicing in what he treasured most. As Christmas events were happening all around us, we were spending much of our time caring for and visiting Dad. The veil seemed very thin, and our family was being pulled together.

I was fortunate to listen to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as he spoke at our Primary general presidency and board Christmas party. He talked about his father, who had died, and what he had learned from it. It opened my eyes to the miracles and understanding of what Jesus Christ means to all of us.

Dad slowly slipped away. My brothers and sisters and I gathered around his bed and cried, laughed, and reminisced about the wonderful years growing up. We realized there were three things he left to us that influenced our lives the most: his testimony of the Father and the Son, his love for the scriptures, and his love for family and the temple. We could feel both my mother and father together again. What a joyous reunion. It didn’t seem like a sad time to dampen the Christmas spirit, but it was what Christmas was all about. It brought more meaning to Christmas.

This was a Christmas gift I did not realize would come in this form. It was like time stopped, and we were experiencing the true gift of the Savior, that our Father in Heaven had sent His Son to earth and He suffered for us and now we can live with Him again. We had just experienced a part of the plan of happiness, and it was sinking deep into our hearts. How blessed we are to have the knowledge that He lives and loves each one of us.

This was a Christmas I will never forget.