This is my favorite person in Alaska Blair. She and I plan parties. It is terrific.
It has been so good to be home. I forgot how much I love a good winter in Alaska, but I love it here. It hasn't been too cold, so it has been fun to be out and about doing fun things. I had a party last week for Christmas and it had such a good turn out. Nothing says home more than just being surrounded by friends and doing what you love best. My little brother is waiting for his mission call, so it has been fun to talk with him about what awaits him and to see him go to the post office every day to see if his call has come. I think he might be the most prepared person I know and so it is so funny to hear him asking me for advice because, honestly, there is nothing I can tell him that will make him any better of a missionary than he is already going to be...he is such a good kid.
Christmas eve in the morning I got a text from my compassionate service leader Erin letting me know that a girl in our ward, Rachel Bush, was going in for surgery. Rachel was diagnosed with leukemia in February of last year and I have been visiting her in the hospital once a week since I moved into this ward. She is an amazing person. I got a phone call a few hours later from one of the counselors in my bishoprich letting me know that the surgery had not gone well and to pray for her to make it through. I spent the rest of the day worrying and praying until I got a phone call that evening letting me know that Rachel had passed away and asking me to spread the word.
I rolled over in my head the last visit I had had with Rachel, and the things that she had taught me. It was tough to be so far away because I just wanted to hug her parents and let them know how amazing I thought they were and how grateful I was for the chance to know Rachel. I sent this email out to the Relief Society and then Brother Winters asked me to forward it on to the priesthood:
My dear, lovely sisters,
I have been thinking for the last few days about what I was going to write about in this email. I've been looking at Christmas stories that would help you see the spirit of Christmas, that would make you think a little less about yourself and more about other people, and thinking about what I could say to help you all have a merry and meaningful Christmas. If I had written this email yesterday, it would be a completely different message than what I will write today.
Rachel Bush passed away today at 6pm due to complications from an operation to clear out an infection. As the doctors began to operate, her organs began to shut down, her blood refused to clot and she slipped slowly from this life on to the eternities. For those of us who have had the opportunity to visit with Rachel, you know that she did what she did so that others would fee loved, so that others would feel blessed and so that others could see that there is always a silver lining in every gray cloud. You will also know that the 'service' we provided her was nothing compared to the service that she gave to us. She was a ball of hope and love and you couldn't help leaving her room with a smile on her face. Nurses and doctors alike would stop by just to see her and couldn't not love her. She embodied what it was like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
This holiday season I want to remind you of the blessings that the atonement has brought to our lives. Because our Savior came into this world, we have hope of a better life. We can be imperfect and yet be perfected in Him. The beauty of the gospel is that we have knowledge of the plan, and we know that if we are faithful and endure to the end, we can return to our Father's presence and be with our families forever. Christ died that we may live and as we strive to do what the Lord wants of us, we are slowly molded into the people that our Father in Heaven needs us to be. Rachel had been molded through one of the toughest trials that anyone could face, and she did it with a smile. The last time I spoke with her, she said she would be home for Christmas. I thought she was being a bit optimistic, but she is home...just not the home I thought she was talking about.
One of my favorite Christmas carols is O Little Town of Bethlehem. As I thought today about Rachel and about the Savior, I was reminded of the words to the third verse:
How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is giv'n
So God imparts to human hearts the Blessings of his heav'n
No ear may hear his coming, But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still The dear Christ enters in.
So I ask you tomorrow and Friday to remember the people you love, to tell them how much they mean to you and to remember that what we are celebrating is the gift of the Savior. Be the Rachel Bushes of the world. Let not your trials make you weary, but search for ways to help each trial become a strength. As it says in Ether, 'And if men come unto me I will show them their weakness; I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.' Let the Savior's sacrafice make you humble, and then let it make you strong.
Keep Rachel's family in your prayers, and focus on what matters, and know that I love you. May you all realize the blessing of life this Christmas season.
Love you dearly,