Like any other year, the months since we last celebrated Thanksgiving have been full of ups and downs.
Most recently, we have had an election, which I suppose counts both ways, since the results were welcomed by some, abhorred by others. That’s to be expected, of course, given the nature of people. I happen to be among those who found the results abhorrent, but I’ve been there before, and after all, I’ve been satisfied with the last two Electoral College totals. I can’t really expect to have all the fun. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that sometime during the next four years, some who are celebrating right now will regret their vote, and some who are unhappy now will have the pleasure of telling them, “I told you so.” That’s the way it is here in America: Every few years we swear in a president and shortly thereafter, we begin cussing them out.
Anyway, the election is probably a minor concern compared to the varied troubles the world scatters in our way from time to time — things like losing jobs, having accidents, getting sick and maxing out credit cards.
Worse, we have to deal with the death of people we know and love, and the older we get, the more often we lose friends and loved ones to death. My family had to deal with such a death this year. Just last month, one of my sisters died peacefully in her sleep.
It’s not the first time I’ve lost a sibling. Almost exactly five years ago, Jeff, the youngest of the five of us, died unexpectedly down in Colorado. It came as a shock to us, not only because he was the youngest, but also because he had hidden much of his life from us for many years, and even those of us who had visited him didn’t learn very much about how he was living. It was doubly sad when we learned that he had died of simple pneumonia, untreated because he didn’t seek medical help. He could not afford treatment, and was too proud to ask for help from us or the government.
Bonnie’s death wasn’t unexpected. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation had all failed to stop the cancer cells that had reappeared after several years of hiding. We knew it was a matter of time, and I’m pretty sure she knew her life was coming to an end weeks earlier than the rest of us did. She died in her sleep less than two days after she had attended church and enjoyed an afternoon outing with some friends.
Even so, it was hard to say goodbye. Bonnie, unlike the rest of us, never left home, and she never married or had children. She lived with and helped our mother until she died, and then lived alone.
But Bonnie had one passion. Though she never became a mother, she was born to take care of little kids.
Not surprisingly then, she made looking after kids her life’s work as an adult. She took care of hundreds of them over the years — spending her days in the homes of working parents, watching over their children. She was known not just for watching them, but playing with them, watching television with them, reading to them and taking them to the park. When one family’s children no longer needed that sort of child care, she always found another family who needed her.
She never forgot the kids she watched over, and neither they nor their parents ever forgot her. She remembered them on their birthdays and at Christmas. She followed them as they competed in school sports, as well as when they performed in concerts and plays. When they graduated, she was there to congratulate them and give them handmade gifts.
As you would guess, then, Bonnie made hundreds of friends over the years, and I was surprised at the distress many of them exhibited at her death. We heard how valued she was for her way with children and how important she was to her church. Worland High School recognized her faithfulness in supporting sports and activities by sending the cheerleading squad to represent the school at her memorial service.
This holiday season, my sister’s death will still be on my mind, but I will also have something to be thankful for. I am thankful because, just as she never forgot a child she cared for, she never forgot us or our children, either. So whenever I receive a card, no matter who it’s from, it will remind me of my sister. I will remember how Bonnie found a niche in life and chose to use it by being helpful to others.
I’m also thankful that her Christian faith comforted her and sustained her throughout her life and especially during her final years as she fought her cancer, and I’m thankful that she was at peace during her last days.
I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you all have something to be thankful for.